Nutrition Kitchen: Volunteers cooking up health

Nutrition KitchenThe month of April is all about our Volunteers! The Food Bank is extremely lucky to have so many devoted volunteers to help distribute 60+ million pounds of food each year. All our communities and neighbors thank you!

The Raleigh Branch is very excited about our newest way to volunteer: cooking demonstrations in our Allscripts Teaching Kitchen. Women from the American-Turkish Association of North Carolina (ATA) were some of the first volunteers to give back in the kitchen. Using foods commonly available at the Food Bank, they whipped up some easy, quick, and low budget recipes for our Partner Agencies to sample and bring back to the families they serve.

American Turkish Association volunteers prepare healthy dishes in the Food Bank's Allscripts Teaching Kitchen

American Turkish Association volunteers prepare healthy dishes in the Food Bank’s Allscripts Teaching Kitchen

Fun in the kitchen

It was a unanimous answer that they all enjoy their time volunteering with the Food Bank. They have participated in many different aspects of volunteering from packing food that is distributed out in the community, to having live cooking demonstrations for our partner agencies monthly. They feel that their time at the Food Bank has been very well organized, coordinated, and structured which has led to many productive experiences.

I asked them some fun food questions to get to know the ladies better; learning about people’s favorite foods and preferences can be interesting, educational, and inspiring. The ATA members agreed that they enjoy preparing meals with fresh fruits and vegetables, and their favorite section of the grocery store is the produce section! Everyone had a favorite healthy snack, such as apples, cherry tomatoes, pears, and carrots. Most of their favorite healthy meals varied but they consisted of Lentil Soup, Arugula Salad, Poached Eggs in Tomato Sauce, and Sesame Rounds. I am excited to try some of these recipes at home, and I will be posting these recipes soon, so everyone can enjoy them!

Preparing meals together in the kitchen is a wonderful way of interacting with family members and friends, it creates life time memories,” they said. “Good nutrition provides food energy for our body and protects from chronic illnesses.” The ATA volunteers understand the importance of good nutrition and the role food plays in a healthy life. No wonder they’re a perfect fit as nutrition education volunteers.

American Turkish Association volunteers cook together in the Allscripts Teaching Kitchen

American Turkish Association volunteers cook together in the Allscripts Teaching Kitchen

Health in the kitchen

Having access to and consuming healthy foods is essential in protecting our bodies from chronic illnesses. The Center for Disease Control published in 2013 that 22.4% of adults consumed vegetables less than one time a day, and 38.5% of adults consumed fruits less than one time a day. These statistics drastically need to change to help reduce the risk of chronic disease such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and obesity. Including fruits and vegetables into all meals can be quick and easy, and come in many forms fresh, frozen, canned, and dried. And that’s exactly what we’re here to show to the friends and neighbors we serve.

The health benefits that come from incorporating fruits and vegetables into your daily meal patterns is huge. By including these foods, you increase your consumption of vitamins and minerals such as Potassium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Folate, and Fiber. Why does that matter? Potassium maintains healthy blood pressure and Folate can help pregnant women decrease their risk of neural tube defects in infants. Vitamin A helps with health of eyes and skin and prevent infection, and Vitamin C heals wounds, maintains strong teeth and gums, and can aid in Iron absorption. Lastly, fiber can reduce total cholesterol levels and decrease risk of heart disease. All fruits and vegetables are low in fat and calories so they make great go to snacks and can help protect you from certain cancers.

At the Food Bank, we have grown our fresh produce program tremendously and have the ability to offer these fresh fruit and vegetables to those we serve. We are always working on ways to increase our supply and distribution of fruits and vegetables to help make these nutrient packed foods more accessible to all communities. And with volunteer support from the ATA, now we are empowering folks to use the produce to prepare easy, healthy meals at home.

American Turkish Association volunteers prepare healthy dishes in the Food Bank's Allscripts Teaching Kitchen

A huge thank you to the ATA members: Ayse P, Tulay, Ayse K, Lale, Ece, and Deniz


Sara Clement, Nutrition Education Manager, Food Bank of Central & Eastern North CarolinaSara Clement RDN, LD is Food Bank CENC’s Nutrition Education Manager. She helps our neighbors in need improve overall health by sharing great food choices and eating habits that work with their lifestyle. Her monthly ‘Nutrition Kitchen’ posts share stories of her work and tips for us all.