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

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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!

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“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

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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! 

Moler Elementary

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"Try something different, you just might like it."

Velma Stokes is the School Secretary at Moler Elementary on Columbus' South Side. Like other staff at the school, she has witnessed first-hand how a learning garden initiative at the school can become a mainstay of the school community. 


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. 


When Velma first watched the Local Matters' learning garden (fondly called Moler Farm) at Moler Elementary develop, she was... intrigued. She is protective of her students and families, and was not convinced that this would be a positive development at the school.

During one of the first harvests, a unique plant caught her attention. 'What are these strange-looking purple things,' she asked Jesse Hickman, Growing Matters Manager. When she learned they were eggplants, her next question became, 'what do you do with them?'

Velma's cautious curiosity reflects that of so many people when they first explore Local Matters' learning gardens. Produce can look very different growing from the ground than it does in groceries or in restaurants. But, with an open mind people can learn about food in a way that changes lives.


Velma now looks forward to the eggplants growing each summer. She has worked on an eggplant lasagna recipe that her family adores. Her openness to the garden and learning about it's growth has allowed her to explore new, healthy foods.

She shares that as the School Secretary, she sees firsthand that the students also enjoy growing and harvesting the vegetables. Through the garden, Local Matters has taught her and the students to "Try something different, you just might like it. Who knows what your new favorite meal may end up being just by trying something new."


Our work with schools like Moler Elementary on Columbus' South Side is possible because of your support, paired with that of dedicated staff like Velma Stokes. Thank you. 

Maryhaven, Pt. 2

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Growth underneath the surface

After solving the problem of how to care for the tomatoes and greens, the women turned toward the bed that should have had carrots.


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. 


Lastly, the group turned to focus on the bean plants. Half of the bean plants had been given stakes to wrap around and support growth. Half of the plants were not given any extra support. The women took note that the bean plants that were not given extra support had grown horizontally until they found supports of their own. 

'Not all of us are given the support we need and deserve, but we are all capable of creating our own system of support.' The food educators leaned into this lesson to wrap up their class for the day. Each one of the plants can teach us something about growth - we just have to look for it.


Our work with Maryhaven this summer, as well as the lessons and growth shared with these women in recovery, is possible because of your support. Thank you. 

Maryhaven, Pt. 1

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Parallel paths of growth and recovery

Katie Hart, a food educator with Local Matters, explains that in Local Matters' classes with Maryhaven, lessons focus on reinforcing a few different values: ownership, patience, problem solving, and celebration. 


At the start of the summer, Local Matters food educators sat down with their Maryhaven class. The cohort was made of up women in recovery, all working on finding their paths to sustainable independence. The first task for this class was to decide what they wanted to plant. 

After deciding what vegetables, fruit, and flowers to grow, the women were encouraged to establish personal goals to work on throughout the program. The goals varied from person to person, with some as straightforward as 'I would love to create a salsa garden,' and some were more complex like, 'I would really like to cultivate patience within myself.'


A few weeks into the program, the class was out in the garden. The women were dismayed that the tomato plants were falling down, unable to support their own weight. The food educators encouraged them to think about what the plants might need to flourish. 'Well, they need support.' Exactly. The same is true for us: sometimes in life, there are things too heavy to carry by ourselves. We need support from those around us.

Then, they noticed that some of the greens were being eaten by insects. 'We need to create a barrier to prevent the plants from being harmed by pests.' Yes - like marigolds! We, too, have things in our life that threaten or farm us. So, what types of external help can we establish to act like marigolds and keep those things away?

The food educators and the women thought about these questions and how they might simultaneously overcome problems in the garden and in their lives. 


Our work with Maryhaven this summer, as well as the lessons and growth shared with these women in recovery, is possible because of your support. Thank you. 

How do you prep an artichoke?

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Sometimes, food pantries receive large deliveries of pretty obscure fresh produce - think rutabaga, eggplant, and ... artichoke.

Local Matters partners with food pantries like NNEMAP to run cooking demos with food available at the pantry. The demos are conducted while customers pick up their groceries so that they can see fast, easy, healthy food prep in action and taste the results.


Local Matters partners with food pantries like NNEMAP to run cooking demos with food available at the pantry. The demos are conducted while customers pick up their groceries so that they can see fast, easy, healthy food prep in action and taste the results.


So what happened to the rest of the artichokes? Well, they were gone by the end of the week. Thank you.