'Color your plate'

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“Color your plate with natural and varied foods. Our motto is, eat well and live well!”
– Dr. Razan Alkhoury, Nationwide Children’s Whitehall Primary Care Center

Dr. Razan Alkhoury first connected with Local Matters through the Culinary Medicine program. She worked alongside Chef Laura Robertson-Boyd for both Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Ohio State University culinary medicine classes. After seeing Local Matters' work first-hand, Dr. Alkhoury knew that she wanted to help establish a partnership between Local Matters and Whitehall Primary Care Center.

“Many of our patients [at Whitehall Primary Care Center] strive to improve their health and control their weight, but I found that offering general information was less helpful to them than specific demonstrations – it’s more effective to learn how to apply their knowledge in the kitchen.

Dr. Alkhoury reflects that there are many common misunderstandings around what healthy eating means. These misunderstandings make overcoming the barriers to achieving a healthy diet feel insurmountable.

“When patients feel like eating healthy is out of reach, that can result in serious medical consequences…I think that empowering families with hands-on cooking lessons, focused on both health and feasibility, sets them up for a better lifestyle.

Local Matters could not agree more. We value our relationship and work with Dr. Alkhoury and the team at Nationwide Children’s Whitehall Primary Care Center. Through partnerships like this, we can come together to share resources and expertise and create a healthy community for all. 

A final note of thanks from Dr. Razan Alkhoury:

The success of launching this program has been a true team effort, so I want to give due credit to Local Matters; the Whitehall Primary Care Center, including Doctors Jackson and Zanotti-Morocco; the Center for Healthy Weight and Nutrition; Restore Whitehall; and the Whitehall Parks and Recreation. I really appreciate their enthusiasm, collaboration, and hard work. Also, the encouragement and support extended to us from the leadership at NCH especially from Doctors Alex Kemper and Dane Snyder has been a big asset to our success.

It gives them the confidence to try new things

Stephanie Curliss, Dana Etter, and The Rev. Anisa Willis coordinate a Satellite Cooking Matters program with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kentucky. The three women laugh easily and are eager to talk about their program’s growth and success.
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church started a Satellite Cooking Matters program in 2015. In each iteration of the program, Stephanie, Rev. Willis, and Dana have adapted the logistics and lessons to incorporate what they learned the previous cycle. Their most recent cohort was a group of seniors, who left quite an impression on the coordinators. 

“When we work with seniors, we focus on eating a wide variety of foods, and trying new things. They’ve lived so long, they know a lot of lessons [about food], but the course gives them the confidence to try new things,” Stephanie shared.  

In addition to trying new foods, the women emphasized how the Cooking Matters course gave the seniors an outlet for community. The group came together each class to share experiences, to learn something new, and to eat together. This type of relationship building and interaction kept the seniors coming back week after week.

Local Matters is proud to partner with St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Kentucky. With a network of passionate, dedicated educators, we continue to build healthy communities through food education, access, and advocacy. Thank you for being a part of this network and our community!

Food access on wheels

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Food access on wheels

What do you do when your neighborhood grocery closes, leaving thousands of people without an accessible alternative? When a Linden grocery closed last year, Local Matters realized we couldn’t wait for another grocery to move in. 

Food access has always been a part of Local Matters’ mission, taking various forms through the years. This summer, though, our food access work has taken a new form – it’s on wheels.

The Local Matters team, led by Community Food Access Coordinator Monique McCoy, has officially launched Veggie Van: "Veggie Van is a way for us to get good quality, fresh, whole foods into communities that don't have a grocery store or access to good quality fresh foods - the whole foods that are lacking in the American diet," shares Monique. 

During Veggie Van’s launch in July, Monique took some time to reflect on it all. "The soft launch at Trio [Pharmacy] was really exciting...for [this work] to come to fruition was pretty emotional for me." 

For Monique, Veggie Van brings food education and access full circle in her community. During Veggie Van’s first stop at Trio Pharmacy, she ran into two previous Food Matters students, who came by with their grandmother. In meeting Monique, the grandmother was able to connect a face to the many lessons about MyPlate and healthy food her grandchildren brought home during their time in Food Matters. The two women connected over their shared experiences and stories, building a trust that is so essential in our work.

Later on, Monique met another neighbor: "A lady came to tell me about how the [cooking demonstration] samples were so good and how she was going to come back for groceries. When she came back, I learned she was the owner of the building that Trio Pharmacy is in. . . She could see how [Veggie Van and Local Matters’ work] could really impact the community."

It takes support from the whole community for a new program to take-off in the way Veggie Van has done. We thank you for your dedication to food access work in Columbus and hope to see you at a Veggie Van stop soon!

A reflection from Local Matters' team member, Jori Turner

Jori Turner reflects on her work with Local Matters coming full circle.

“We never know which lives we influence, or when, or why.”  I enjoy coming upon a meaningful quote, like this one from Stephen King, and enjoy them even more when I find their truth. A couple of weeks ago, I received a phone call that validated King’s observation.

My younger cousin, Kyndal, has always been “my girl!” On a hot and humid day last summer, I brought her to work with me. That day, I was teaching students about succession planting. As I taught, I found that I had a familiar pair of eyes watching me and curious ears listening to my lesson. I hoped that Kyndal was saving nuggets of information for herself.

Then came the tasting—baked kale chips—a favorite in our classrooms. I asked my students how they enjoyed the kale chips with many affirmations of the snack’s tastiness in response. I arrived at Kyndal’s seat, asking “How do you like them?” To my relief, she smiled slightly and gave me a thumbs up. Bear in mind that Kyndal is what I call a ‘specific eater’ -- she knows what she likes. I was satisfied that she at least tried the kale chips.

Fast forward to this summer, nearly a year later. Kyndal called me on the phone. She wasted no time to state her reason for calling. “Do you remember those kale chips you made in class that time I went to work with you? They were really good, and I want to make them. Will you give me with the recipe?” Of course, I gave her the recipe, not knowing she already had the kale at home, ready to cook. I asked her to let me know how the chips turned out. 

Two days later, I received a video message of Kyndal making the kale chips and the finished product. The most surprising part of the video was the 10 seconds of time filled by her older brother, Jason, eating a kale chip and enjoying it! “J,” as I call him, is not a lover of vegetables of any kind. 

Upon hanging up the phone, I sat still for a few seconds, filled with gladness and humility that Kyndal’s experience with me in the classroom impacted her in a way that made her feel interested in and capable of making a healthful snack for her and her brother. This experience warmed my heart and reminded me that the individuals we teach hear us and move at their own pace.

When a love of giving back and food equity rekindles a friendship


Meet Brittney and Shannon, two OSU alum passionate about volunteering, food equity, and community

Brittney and Shannon became fast friends in college when they were both a part of the school club, Recipe for Good. It was simple: both women prioritized giving back to the community through a connection with food. But when Brittney graduated and Shannon went on to follow in her footsteps as President of the club, they lost touch.

Fast forward to 2019, when Brittney and Shannon decided, independently of one another, to learn more about volunteering with Local Matters. The night they showed up for volunteer orientation, they were in for an surprise – the opportunity to reconnect with one another. 

After they rekindled their friendship, Local Matters took some time to connect with Brittney and Shannon and to understand what drives them both to continue giving back in their post-graduate lives.

Brittney starts by explaining her drive to volunteer: “I never feel like volunteering is something I have to squeeze in because it's just something that I really enjoy doing. The feeling is hard to explain, but I find myself gravitating towards opportunities to get involved in the community and just help…and to contribute to something outside of myself.” 

Shannon shares that volunteering for her is about connection: “What I like most about volunteering is how it connects me to the community. I think it is incredibly valuable for people to feel connected to their community and the people around them. When I get to meet people with different backgrounds and perspectives…it is so refreshing to realize… that I can play a role in the world and the lives around me.”

When asked what it was about Local Matters that inspires them to volunteer with our programs, both Brittney and Shannon leaned in to mission and values.

Brittney shares: “The work that Local Matters does on a community level is insanely necessary in today's world with food deserts and unhealthy food options for people in these areas… It is a luxury to be able to go to a grocery store within a mile or two of where I live and be able to purchase healthy food/produce to eat. I…fully support the idea that through food education and advocacy for healthier options in food deserts, we can help lengthen life spans and show people that healthy doesn't always coincide with expensive or out of reach.”

Shannon echoes Brittney, sharing that “Food is incredibly important in any person’s life and in every society. Food is what brings people together and what gives people health. Therefore, when people don’t have access to nutritious food, it undermines that community and their health.”

Every person who works with Local Matters - volunteers, staff, partners - has their own 'why.' We appreciate Brittney and Shannon sharing their 'whys' and hope you consider doing the same. By sharing your story of support, you allow us to continue our work partnering for healthy communities. Thank you!

Breakfast burritos, satellite partners, and more!


“Food is the fuel that keeps you going where you’re going.”

– Connor Ross, Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus

Each Tuesday, Connor Ross takes a break from his typical work day to lead a Cooking Matters for Kids class. Connor is Associate Director of Programs & Youth Engagement with Boys & Girls Clubs of Columbus and has helped bring Cooking Matters for Kids to his students. 

As a Satellite program partner, Boys & Girls Club is trained to deliver Local Matters’ programming. It’s just one way Local Matters has been able increase the accessibility and breadth of our programming. 

For Connor and his students, having Cooking Matters for Kids curriculum has taken their cooking classes to the next level. “I’ve been really impressed with the curriculum. Everything builds on top of each other. Each week, there is a little bit of recap – a little knife safety, kitchen safety – but then we continue forward with the new lesson.” 

Connor and his students particularly enjoyed the lesson with breakfast burritos. “We really enjoyed making the hearty egg burritos. The kids enjoy the opportunity to prep fruits and veggies, scramble eggs, and of course roll their own burritos. After the lesson, we had a chance to sit down and shoot the breeze while eating our meal – it was like a true family meal.”

We love hearing stories like Connor’s and about how Local Matters programming is delivered across so many of our communities. Your generous support allows us to continue training satellite partners so that hands-on food education can reach kids and adults across Ohio.

'Impactful fun’ - one volunteer’s story

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“In my family, food is EVERYTHING. It’s the binding tie – the one thing we all need and love.”

Mary Cowx is a PhD student in Accounting at The Ohio State University. When not busy with school, Mary has found that volunteering with Local Matters is the perfect combination of meaningful work and fun.

Most of Mary’s volunteering so far has been in Local Matters’ community kitchen classes. For her, these classes foster community and growth.

“[Since becoming a Local Matters volunteer], I’ve learned that people can sometimes find cooking intimidating and that simplifying the process and the ingredients is very helpful… Many people are [also] unsure how to make healthy food choices. I understand that uncertainty… People do the best they can with the money and the cooking skill-set they have. I love volunteering in the cooking classes at Local Matters because I feel that they teach tools and skills that attendees can take home and immediately implement into their everyday lives.”

“My favorite part of volunteering is when we all sit down to eat the meal together at the end of the class.” This feeling reflects Mary’s family values: “Food brings us all together around the table, and it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.”

Most of Mary’s volunteering so far has been in Local Matters’ community kitchen classes. For her, these classes foster community and growth.

“[Since becoming a Local Matters volunteer], I’ve learned that people can sometimes find cooking intimidating and that simplifying the process and the ingredients is very helpful… Many people are [also] unsure how to make healthy food choices. I understand that uncertainty… People do the best they can with the money and the cooking skill-set they have. I love volunteering in the cooking classes at Local Matters because I feel that they teach tools and skills that attendees can take home and immediately implement into their everyday lives.”

“My favorite part of volunteering is when we all sit down to eat the meal together at the end of the class.” This feeling reflects Mary’s family values: “Food brings us all together around the table, and it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.”

Vitamin songs, myPlate, and mindful eating

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“I talked to my mom and my dad about vitamins. I talked about the song that Mr. Eli taught us: 'A and C, B and E, vitamin K...' then I added on, ‘saves the day!’”

Every Tuesday, Madame Foley’s second grade class at Ecole Kenwood welcomes Local Matters’ Food Matters team for their lesson in food, nutrition, cooking, and culture.One student in Madame Foley’s class is especially excited each Tuesday – Haven Scott loves Food Matters.

When seven-year old Haven tells his mom, Grace, about what he’s learning with Food Matters, he spares no detail. “[In Food Matters] we talk about food groups, vitamins. Now we’re talking about the heart and stuff. And what bad food and good food does to you. For example, some bad fats kind of clog up the veins in your hands. But if you run a lot and eat healthy fats, your veins could get unclogged.”
After a lesson in nutrition, Haven tells his mom about mindful eating: “First, we eat with our eyes. Then we eat with our nose. Then we eat with our mouth and our ears at the same time and hear what it sounds like when we chew the food. I like eating with all the senses a lot of the time but not all the time. Like with ice cream, I just want to eat the ice cream.”

When asked what he thinks all kids in Columbus should learn about food, Haven thought about all that he has learned with Food Matters. Then, he decided: “Well, at the least they should know about myPlate and the different food groups; maybe what the different vitamins give you – like vitamin d mostly comes from the sun and K comes from green vegetables.” We agree – every student has the right to a robust education about food and nutrition.

For Grace, Haven's mom, Food Matters has changed the way their family talks about food: “Food Matters has completely changed Haven’s appreciation and understanding of food...To have knowledge to critically think about food and what we eat and what it does for our bodies, and have a space to do that has been awesome. It’s helped us to have some really good conversations about food.”

“My favorite part of volunteering is when we all sit down to eat the meal together at the end of the class.” This feeling reflects Mary’s family values: “Food brings us all together around the table, and it doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive.”

Mission Moment: Nutrition as a foundation

This story comes from a Community Kitchen Class participant and Local Matters friend, Leslie. These are her words, for which we are so appreciative.

An Unexpected Blessing


In December 2017, just a few days after Christmas, I stood up to walk to my kitchen when I was blindsided by a sharp and crippling pain in my right leg.  I found myself literally crawling on the floor.  Suddenly, walking became very painful and difficult.  Whatever this was, I assumed, would pass.  After several days of struggling, I finally went to see my doctor.   This marked the beginning of numerous tests and medical appointments to pinpoint the problem.  I finally received a diagnosis of moderate to severe arthritis in my right hip and low back. 

While I have always had a passion for health and wellness, I did not always observe smart eating habits. Yet, I considered myself a healthy person.  As such, this pronouncement was surprising to both my family and me.  Following my diagnosis, I was fortunate to meet a wonderful doctor at Ohio State’s Division of Integrative Medicine, who takes a holistic approach to wellness.  Among other recommendations, she advised me to adopt a plant-based diet.  While I had casually heard of such an eating plan, I was not very familiar. 

In late February, my good friend Antoinette Johnson invited me to take a cooking class with her at Local Matters.  She had very positive comments about her experience with the organization.  I instinctively knew this was no coincidence.  I attended my first cooking class in early April and have been an enthusiastic fan ever since. 

Local Matters has been an absolute blessing and has immensely improved the quality of my life.  This wonderful organization introduced me to health food education and deliciously nutritious meals.  I noticed an almost immediate improvement in my overall health and physical condition.  Additionally, the cooking classes have boosted my culinary skills and confidence in the kitchen.  The instructors are warm and caring individuals that provide enlightening health information and set the tone for a great learning experience. 

I often speak about Local Matters with my family and friends.  My husband enjoys the delicious meals I prepare and the subsequent health benefits.  I have also prepared these plant-based dishes for my family and friends and the reviews have all been positive.  I figure if I can plant a small seed to inspire healthier eating choices, perhaps the knowledge will take hold.   

For those who say they do not have time to prepare healthy meals, I say the key is preparation, preparation, and preparation. This is one of the best tips I learned in cooking classes.  I make a concerted effort to chop produce on weekends or whenever I have free time, which makes preparing healthy meals much easier.  My health is certainly worth the time and effort.

The physical pain and frustration I experienced throughout my health crisis has truly been humbling, and has afforded me a newfound compassion for those who suffer from various illnesses and physical conditions.  I am profoundly grateful for the food education, nutritional knowledge, and wonderful people I have met through Local Matters.  I just love the way healthy eating feels and the continuing progress in my overall health.  I am absolutely committed to leading a more meaningful and fulfilling life with health and nutrition as my foundation.  Hats off to Local Matters!

Nutrition is a balancing act

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"Having tangible moments with real food and real recipes that can impact medical conditions was really important for me."

As the son of a Los Angeles-based chef, Jordan Nunnelee knew his way around food at a pretty early age. It was because of his upbringing that he knows how food can create joy and connection.

So, when Jordan was ready to attend medical school, having the opportunity to explore food as medicine was important. At The Ohio State University College of Medicine, Jordan enrolled in a culinary medicine course led by Local Matters.

The carrots weren’t growing. How could all the other gardens be full of growth, but not the carrots? Our food educators asked, 'For carrots, where does the growth occur?' 'Underground.' Yes, so we don’t always see the growth happening. We have to trust that it's happening before we can see the results.

In that sense, we are all just like the carrots. We have to trust that our growth, our recovery is taking place. Eventually, we will be able to see how the healing has impacted daily life. 

We asked Jordan to reflect on what he learned during the eight-week program. He focused on two key surprises. First, he was shocked by preparing and seeing what a single serving of food should be. "The difference between that amount and the serving you might get at a restaurant was shocking."

The second lesson that impacted Jordan more than expected is about sodium. When the class discussed hypertension, they talked about decreasing sodium as an effective strategy for reducing symptoms. Then, they measured out the recommended amount of daily salt intake. To Jordan, it seemed like nothing!

Jordan recognizes how lucky he is to learn these lessons as part of the culinary medicine cohort. "Nutrition can help so many problems that my future patients will be dealing with. Having tangible moments with real food and real recipes that can impact medical conditions was really important for me. You can't just walk up to a patient and say 'hey, stop eating salt and you'll feel better.' It's a step-by-step journey and we, as future doctors, need to be realistic about what it means to change a patient's diet."

At the end of Jordan's reflection, we asked if he had any final thoughts to share with us. He said he wanted to pass along something that Dr. Habash, one of his professors and a leader of culinary medicine at OSU, likes to say: eat more vegetables.

Now that's something we can support!