Every semester of Vetri Cooking Lab ends with a special family-style meal. Students are allowed to invite a guest to the meal, most often a parent or caregiver. The final lesson — that food is something that brings people together — is a great way for students to recap the semester and share their new skills with their friends and family.
This semester, our students made chicken fajitas with rice & beans, pico de gallo, and chocolate-dipped fruit. Students are always so proud to serve the meal they prepared and their guests are always impressed by the results.
As they enjoy the meal, many students reflect on what they’ve learned. Here’s some of what students were saying this semester:
Vetri Community Partnership has over 150 active volunteers working across its programs. Our organization attracts a wide range of volunteers, each with interesting and varied backgrounds — educators, nutritionists, students, chefs, or simply food enthusiasts!
This National Volunteer Appreciation Week (April 15-21), we wanted to take a moment to highlight a few of our volunteers and learn more about why they volunteer with VCP!
Special thanks to all of VCP’s dedicated volunteers. There would be no mission without your generous support.
Volunteer with Vetri Cooking Lab at Dunbar Elementary
Danielle is a sophomore Public Health major at Temple University and is particularly interested in how diet can be used as a method of preventative healthcare.
What Danielle likes most about volunteering for Vetri Cooking Lab is that it gives her an opportunity to actually make a difference. As a student, she spends so much of her time learning about health problems, but is rarely given any information on simple things she can do to help mitigate these issues. Educating kids on the benefits of a well-rounded diet and helping them create nutritious meals is a great way to start changing how people view food and nutrition.
Volunteer with My Daughter’s Kitchen at Hunter Elementary
Joyce Dean is a new volunteer with our My Daughter’s Kitchen program! Joyce is a retired Nurse Anesthetist and brings a unique healthcare perspective to the kitchen. She has made a great impact in the kitchen by teaching students the importance of sterility and safety, especially while using knives.
So far, Joyce has been enjoying her volunteer experience and really loves working with such spectacular students, school staff, and fellow volunteers. When Joyce is not volunteering with Vetri Community Partnership, she enjoys traveling, making delicious dinners, and taking classes at Penn State.
Volunteer with Vetri Cooking Lab at Antonia Pantoja Charter School and William D. Kelley School
Michael has a varied background, including working in restaurants — both in the kitchen and the front of house. He is currently pursuing a career in education and volunteering with Vetri Cooking Lab allows him to use his past experience with food, but gives him a taste for working with students in an academic setting. When he’s not volunteering with Vetri Community Partnership, Michael volunteers with other organizations, including Manna.
Volunteer with Vetri Cooking Lab at Antonia Pantoja Charter School
Jenn is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in France and the pastry program at The Culinary Institute in NY. She recently went back to school at West Chester University to obtain her bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and is applying for internships to meet the requirements for becoming a Registered Dietician.
In the meantime, she is taking advantage of a break in her schedule to volunteer with Vetri Cooking Lab at Pantoja. While she needs to get a ‘real job,’ she loves volunteering with VCL, as well as past experiences with a Vetri Community Partnership program at ESF camps and community visits with the Mobile Teaching Kitchen. Volunteering with Vetri Community Partnership fulfills what she feels is her personal mission — to help people learn to cook and eat healthy meals.
Volunteer with My Daughter’s Kitchen at William H. Loesche Elementary School
Jane Pupis has been volunteering with our My Daughter’s Kitchen program at William H. Loesche Elementary School for about 4 years! Jane is a retired teacher who came to learn about volunteering with Vetri Community Partnership through the weekly My Daughter Kitchen write-ups in The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Jane loves diving into new recipes with students every week and learning how to integrate healthy foods into a diet, alongside the youth. She is impressed by the students’ large culinary vocabulary, and often hears them crediting this lingo to the fun cooking shows they watch at home. When Jane is not volunteering with Vetri Community Partnership, she loves reading with her book club, exercising, and socializing with friends.
Volunteer with Vetri Cooking Lab at McMichael Morton School
Liz has been a volunteer with Vetri Cooking Lab for two semesters (last semester she was at Dunbar Elementary).
Her background is in fashion. When she was twenty, she launched a girls clothing line called Change de Chanel that was inspired by the famous fashion label, Chanel, with a quirky twist. Later, she worked and designed for women’s fashion lines for INC, Ann Taylor Loft, Lord & Taylor, and Ascena Retail Group.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Liz enjoyed many fresh, healthy meals at home with her family. Her mother, an interior designer, even self-published a cookbook called “30 Days in the Life of a LA Wife.” Now a mother herself, Liz involves her 7-year-old daughter in all aspects of meal preparation – reading recipes, discussing nutrition labels, shopping at Reading Terminal Market, and cooking.
Liz says it is amazing to teach kids in Vetri Cooking Lab about nutrition and the art of cooking. She enjoys learning more about each student and hearing about the foods they appreciate and gravitate to. She has found the volunteer experience to be enriching – for both the teachers and students!
Volunteer with Vetri Cooking Lab at Russell Byers Charter School
Jay has been volunteering with our Vetri Cooking Lab program at Russell Byers Charter School for the past two semesters. Jay works within the Human Resources Management team at TD Bank. Jay came to learn about volunteer opportunities at Vetri Community Partnership through his work, as TD Bank is a largely community driven corporation.
Jay was already familiar with the Vetri brand, being an avid Philadelphia foodie. When volunteering, Jay enjoys that the recipes are appropriate for all age groups and even loves to test them out at home! When Jay isn’t volunteering, he enjoys teaching and playing Jazz piano, trying out new restaurants, and traveling.
Vetri Community Partnership chefs were tasked with creating a simple recipe for a home cook that utilized pantry staples, included all the food groups, used minimal pots & pans, and only took 30 mins of prep, cook and serve time.
A true unicorn of a recipe! But after some deliberation, they came up with this one-pan burrito bowl.
Kelly Herrenkohl, VCP’s fearless COO and mother of four, decided to put it to the test. Her rubric – is this something she would actually be able to get on the table for her kids after a busy day at work?
We took to the #VCPtestkitchen with a timer set to 0:30 and she was off!
The filling ingredients in the oven would take the longest, so she immediately started cubing, slicing, chopping. Everything went together in a bowl and she tossed it all with olive oil and taco seasoning. After spreading everything out on a sheet pan, she tossed it in the oven and turned her attention to the quinoa. Once the quinoa was slowly bubbling on the stove top, she quickly set up her toppings — grated cheese, chopped green onions, and tomatoes. And then, with nothing left to prep, Kelly had time to clean up.
In just over 30 minutes, the filling came out of the oven and the quinoa came off of the stove top. The self-assembly nature of the recipe meant that all she had to do was put out bowls and forks for her kids to help themselves.
It was a hit! We hope you enjoy this recipe with your family. It can easily be doubled or tripled to accommodate a crowd!
As part of Vetri Cucina‘s 20th anniversary, VCP co-founder Marc Vetri has been inviting chefs from across the country and around the world to collaborate with him for special dinners. Once of those guests was renowned Chef Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana, one of Italy’s most celebrated restaurants.
In addition to being the leading figure in modern Italian gastronomy, Bottura also founded Food for Soul to empower communities to fight against food waste in the interest of social inclusion and individual wellbeing.
Since he was unable to make it out to a Mobile Teaching Kitchen visit, we decided to bring the Mobile Teaching Kitchen to him! We were honored to share our mission and program with him, especially since his philanthropic work is so inspiring.
In Week 2 of Vetri Cooking Lab at Adaire Alexander School, we made Apple Cinnamon Pancakes with Raisin Butter and talked a lot about measuring different types of ingredients and cooking tools. We also practiced reading the recipe and quizzed their comprehension with a short test.
The students did an excellent job grating apples, measuring dry ingredients, rehydrating raisins to be blended with an immersion blender into our raisin butter. They mixed together the pancake batter and cooked 30 cakes total on the griddle. A small group put their heads together to figure out what the serving size was if we divided the recipe yield by the number of kids in the class. (Answer: 2 pancakes per student)
There were a surprising number of raisin skeptics! When I asked the raisin butter team to taste a raisin before we set them to soak in the warm water, I felt like I was watching that show Fear Factor! One chewed it reluctantly with a disturbed expression, another held it in his fingers and poked it once with his tongue, another took the tiniest nibbled possible, and the other held it in front of his mouth, pretended to eat it, and spun around to put it in the trash can. I laughed and reminded the class of our pledge to keep an open mind and try everything!
At the end of class when we all came together to taste and discuss the recipes, my day was made when one student exclaimed, “Shockingly, I love the raisin butter!” This spirit of adventure and discovery is one of many reasons why I love teaching this class.
On Saturday, April 21st, Vetri Community Partnership, along with co-founders Chef Marc Vetri and restaurateur Jeff Benjamin, will hold its first annual Eat to Empower Dinner Series & Food Festival at La Colombe Coffee Roasters (1335 Frankford Avenue) in Fishtown. All proceeds for this event will benefit Vetri Community Partnership. More information about the event can be found at vetricommunity.org/eat-to-empower/
General admission tickets for the Eat to Empower Food Festival will go on sale Thursday, March 15th. Tickets are $75 per person and include food, open bar and music. Tickets can be purchased at vcp.ticketleap.com/eat-to-empower. Featured food vendors include Big Gay Ice Cream, Cheu Noodle Bar, Mike’s BBQ, Pizzeria Vetri and Poi Dog. Drinks will be provided by Bluecoat American Gin, Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye Whiskey, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Yard’s Brewing Co. More food and drink providers will be added leading up to the event.
Attendees can expect a night of nicethings with Chill Moody and DJ Hank McCoy who will serve as emcee/DJ. Entertainment will also include original art created live by Saeed Briscoe.
“The food and beverage industry is full of passionate people,” said Marc Vetri. “It’s not just about what they’re doing in the kitchen or behind the bar – they are passionate about their families, communities, and giving back. We want this event to celebrate the generosity, heart and soul of the industry by mobilizing them around the mission of Vetri Community Partnership.”
Founded in 2008 by Chef Marc Vetri and restaurateur Jeff Benjamin, Vetri Community Partnership empowers children and families to lead healthy lives through fresh food, hands-on experiences and education. Vetri Community Partnership’s school lunch and nutrition education programs are active in more than 70 sites in Philadelphia and Camden, serving more than 7,500 students.
Also part of this event is the sold out Eat to Empower Dinner Series. Held in six private homes across the Greater Philadelphia region, approximately 20 diners at each home will be treated to wine, a multi-course meal, and high-end auction featuring one-of-a-kind food and drink experiences. Featured national chefs are Rocco Whalen (Charlotte, NC & Cleveland, OH), Tom Colicchio (NYC & LA), Michele Forgione (Montreal, Canada), Bill Telepan (NYC), Tony Maws (Cambridge, MA), and Jeremiah Langhorne (Washington, DC). Each national chef will be paired up with a local chef, including Michael Solomonov, Nick Elmi, Joey Baldino, Rich Landau, Chad Williams, and Tod Wentz.
Sponsors for the first annual Eat to Empower Dinner Series & Food Festival include Tioga Franklin Savings Bank; Permit Capital Advisors, LLC; Clifton Larson Allen, LLP; Vending Trucks; Advanced Staging; Cashman & Associates; Bird & Banner; Color Reflections.
Sponsorship opportunities begin at $2,000. For more information on becoming a sponsor of the first annual Eat to Empower event, contact Genevieve Lynch at Vetri Community Partnership at email@example.com.
Community Partnership School, 1936 Judson Street, Philadelphia, PA 19121
Mondays from 3-5 p.m. through May 7th
William H. Hunter School, 2400 N. Front Street, Philadelphia, PA 19133
Thursdays from 3:20-5:20 p.m. through April 26th
Hostos Charter School, 6301 N. 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA 19120
Mondays from 3:15-5:15 p.m. through May 14th
Duckrey Elementary School, 1501 Diamond Street, Philadelphia, PA 19121
Mondays from 3-5 p.m. through May 21st
Young Scholars Charter School, 900 N. Marshall Street, Philadelphia, PA 19123
Thursdays from 3-4:30 p.m. through June 7th
Volunteers are needed to teach students how to cook and encourage healthful eating habits!
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are available at one of these sites.
VCP chefs partnered with The Franklin Institute to bring a special workshop about The Science of Pizza to their 9th through 12th grade STEM Scholars.
We experimented with different types of dough, toppings and heat sources to find out how it would impact the outcome. The results were delicious!
Thank you to the Free Library of Philadelphia’s Culinary Literacy Center for hosing us!
The NowThis Food team came out to a Mobile Teaching Kitchen visit at Lindley Academy Charter School to see how we’re teaching kids about the importance of healthy eating.
Check out the video for yourself and share with your friends & family!
This kitchen on wheels teaches kids about healthy eating
Thank you to the Courier-Post for helping us spread the word about our Mobile Teaching Kitchen‘s visits to Camden, NJ! Our chefs love spreading the word about healthy eating and showing people that it can be accessible, affordable, and delicious.
This is what one attendee had to say about our sweet potatoes, greens and cabbage recipe:
“I’m not usually a cabbage eater,” she said, dipping her fork into a plastic ramekin. “The only time I ever have it is in an egg roll. But this is really good; the way they put the sweet potato and spinach together, they really complement each other. And the cabbage gives it some crunch.”
CAMDEN – The plastic cartons were filled to the brims with cabbage, oranges, sweet potatoes, fresh greens, squash and zucchini. All of it was free, and more than 140 people streamed into the meeting room at the back of St. John the Baptist Church in East Camden to help themselves to the fresh produce being offered by Philabundance.