Course Highlight: A Taste of African Heritage

February 19, 2019

In honor of Black History Month, we are highlighting one of the courses offered by our EAT360 program, A Taste of African Heritage! Through this course created by Oldways, adult community members learn to cook and celebrate the healthy and delicious food traditions of the African Diaspora with hands-on culinary classes. 

A Taste of African Heritage (ATOAH) is more than just a series of cooking classes. It is a new kind of wellness program designed to reconnect participants with vibrant ways of eating and living that once promoted the health of African American ancestors everywhere. Not only does it introduce participants to the rich cultural history of African heritage foods, but also it provides them the tools they need to adopt this traditional way of eating for better health in modern day life.

Our EAT360 Program Coordinators offer this program at partner schools year-round during after school-hours. Childcare is provided. Like us on Facebook to stay up to date on the next ATOAH course offerings.

VCP Receives KidCents Regional Grant from The Rite Aid Foundation

The Rite Aid Foundation has awarded a $25,000 KidCents Regional Grant to Vetri Community Partnership for the My Daughter’s Kitchen program.

The new KidCents Regional Grant Program, which provides grants of $15,000-$30,000, significantly expands the reach of KidCents by funding specific out-of-school-time programs focused on children’s nutrition, physical fitness and academic success. The KidCents program also annually supports a select group of more than 400 nonprofit, kid-focused organizations committed to improving the health and wellbeing of children living in the communities Rite Aid serves and national organizations focused on critical children’s issues, including The Fred Rogers Company, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals and Folds of Honor.

“We created the KidCents program to ensure that kids have a chance for better lives and brighter futures,” said Tracy Henderson, director of The Rite Aid Foundation and charitable giving initiatives. “With the introduction of the KidCents Regional Grant program, we are expanding our efforts even more while filling a need for valuable out-of-school-time programming. In addition, we are enabling our partner nonprofit organizations to implement innovative, ground-breaking programs that advance children’s health and wellbeing and promote academic growth.”

KidCents Regional Grants support nonprofit organizations with programs that serve children, from newborn to 18 years of age, and improve the quality of life in Rite Aid communities. The grants support three of KidCents’ primary focus areas for improving the health and wellbeing of children: healthy eating, active living and education. To be considered, programs and projects were required to take place during out-of-school-time. Priority was given to programs supporting communities in need.

The inaugural cycle of grants launched in May 2018 and was available in select counties in the following states: California, Delaware, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington. Another cycle of KidCents Regional Grants will launch later this year. To learn more about the program visit riteaid.com/grants.

Meet Celia – Our New VCL Program Manager!

Vetri Community Partnership is excited to announce our new Vetri Cooking Lab Program Manager, Celia Mason! Celia first joined Vetri Community Partnership in October of 2017 as a Vetri Cooking Lab educator. She quickly fell in love with VCP’s mission and joined as the Education Program Coordinator in March 2018 before assuming her current role as Program Manager.

Prior to her time at VCP, Celia received her degree in Environmental Studies from Temple University, with a minor in Spanish. She graduated in 2014 and moved to Austin, where she taught yoga, meditation and mindfulness to children of all ages. From there, she moved to Costa Rica to work as a program assistant for the Center for Sustainable Development Studies, where she helped coordinate between students, professors, local communities, farmers and organizations around environmental and social issues in the country.

After these adventures, Celia returned to Philadelphia in 2017. She was thrilled to stumble upon Vetri Community Partnership, which she felt married her interests in fair and sustainable food systems, community development, childhood education and wellness.

First starting as a part-time VCL educator, she taught 4th-8th grader students at both Science Leadership Academy – Middle School and St. Malachy School. One of her favorite parts of this role was seeing student’s have “light bulb moments” throughout the semester as new concepts, skills, and ideas would click for them in classes.

Celia could also identify with students’ challenges in approaching a new way of eating in Vetri Cooking Lab, as she herself had had to rethink her eating a few years prior when she was diagnosed with celiac disease (gluten intolerance). Given this diagnosis, she had to become very mindful about everything she ate and drank in order to protect her health. With this empathy in hand, Celia feels she is better able to help students become more mindful of their eating habits, one small step at a time.

Now in her role as Program Manager, Celia is thrilled to utilize her experience in hands-on education to help guide and grow the program in its coming years. When asked what excites her most about this new position, she says it is “Being able to lead a team of educators who are sharing real life skills and a love of nutritious food with Philly youth!” 

Outside of her time working with VCP, Celia likes to stay busy, with some of her favorite hobbies beings traveling, exploring the outdoors, cooking, reading, and playing on her yoga mat!

If you’d like to know more about Celia or Vetri Cooking Lab, feel free to reach out at celia@vetricommunity.org.

VCP Newsletter – November 2018

November 7, 2018

Program Updates & EAT 360

Eatiquette360 is now EAT360

EAT360 will be focusing on providing Direct Nutrition Education Classes in the classroom, as well as Fresh Food Tastings in the lunchroom this school year. In addition to those two aspects of the program, our EAT360 team will be implementing Caregiver Nutrition/Culinary Classes to the communities and families of our partner schools – this will encompass cooking demos and tastings through the ‘Just Say Yes’ Snap-Ed initiative, as well as interactive culinary classes honing in on African heritage and culture. Upcoming programming and volunteer opportunities are listed below. 

  • November 1st and 15th: ‘A Taste of African Heritage’ caregiver nutrition/culinary class. November 1st will be taking place at Bethune School. There are two classes on November 15th; Wissahickon Awbury and ICS West. 
  • Student nutrition/culinary classrooms: November will have classes continuing and starting at Ziegler, Loesche, St. James, Wissahickon Awbury, ICS West, and MSA. December classes will be at Bethune, Cristo Rey, and GLA SW. 
  • November 29th and 30th: Our EAT360 team needs help de-identifying over 500 surveys from our partner schools and matching them with student ID numbers. If you are a volunteer interested in administrative statistical work, please reach out to Ridhdhi Parmar at ridhdhi@vetricommunity.org 

Mobile Teaching Kitchen 

Patrick Shafer & Mallika Kodavatiganti engaging with community members at the Hunting Park Farmer’s Market

As winter approaches, the Mobile Teaching Kitchen (MTK) is closing out our Farmer’s Market season at the end of November. But we still have a few more visits scheduled for Hunting Park (Saturdays) and Fairmount Park (Thursdays), so there is still time to sign up and volunteer with us! 

Just because the farmer’s market season is ending, does not slow our MTK team down – the Mobile Teaching Kitchen is still on the GO! Our program runs all year round, and we would love to have our amazing volunteers continue to come out on the truck with us. 

Volunteer Highlight: Mallika Kodavatiganti is a passionate, friendly and dedicated volunteer who has helped out on the Mobile Teaching Kitchen at Hunting Park for a number of visits throughout the month of October. Mallika comes to us from Drexel University, through Drexel’s Lindy Center for Civic Engagement. Here’s Mallika in action cooking up tasty samples of Roasted Beets with Squash Ribbons and Greens and chatting with folks visiting the market! 

 

My Daughter’s Kitchen 

Syliani Ortiz & Gobby Rodriguez from Bayard Taylor School showcasing the plethora of colorful vegetables they worked with.

My Daughter’s Kitchen’s Fall 2018 semester successfully launched in early October with 35 sites under its wings, and will be approaching its 6th week. With a handful of new partner sites, we have been able to launch wonderful partnerships within Philadelphia & Camden. So far, this semester has been filled with food revelations, teamwork, and photos of tasty meals! Our participants are practicing their knife skills, learning about the nutritional content of the ingredients they are working with, as well as providing thoughtful feedback on the recipes they are building.  

At the end of each MDK class, each site’s participants and volunteers sit down to taste the delicious meal they all created together. This culminating aspect of the program allows for our participants to create a positive rapport with each other, as well as the dedicated volunteers that they see each week. Here’s to another inspiring few weeks of My Daughter’s Kitchen! 

 

Vetri Cooking Lab 

Vetri Cooking Lab (VCL) is halfway through its third year of programming at 31 sites in Philadelphia and Camden. Eboni Killing, an intern from Temple’s College of Public Health volunteers at two of our VCL sites this semester. Based off of her experience, Eboni informed us on her experience with VCP so far. 

Why did you choose to intern for VCP? My internship coordinator informed me that we had a student here during the summer and she spoke highly of her experience here. I was simply telling my internship coordinator my interest and that I want to start learning more about nutrition but I wanted to be more involved. She pointed me in the Vetri Community way and I have not looked back since.  

How is this internship preparing you for when you graduate? This internship is giving me a taste of what it could be like if I was to start a career in nutrition education. I do not know what I want to focus on but being with Vetri  Community Partnership is giving me real life experiences and connections that I will carry with me for the rest of my life. I enjoy what I do, from seeing the administrative side of the organization in the office every morning to helping facilitate children in an after-school setting.  

What do you love about Vetri Cooking Lab and St. Malachy? The thing I love most about VCL and St. Malachy (besides my students) are the recipes and the educator. The educator has so much patience and is very good with the kids. I also love how fresh and different each recipe is. The students are not the only ones learning every week. 

 

Matching Gifts to Vetri Community Partnership

Susan was introduced to the great work that Vetri Community Partnership does through the weekly My Daughter’s Kitchen articles in The Inquirer. She was thrilled to see that Chef Marc Vetri and Jeff Benjamin created an organization that supported the children and families of Philadelphia. Our mission of empowering children and families to lead healthy lives through fresh-food, hands-on experiences and education closely aligns with Susan’s view that empowering children is a key to social change. She also supports the tactic that our programs teach important life/ culinary skills and concepts; using math, science and other disciplines in a natural way. Each child has the opportunity to shine and build confidence in their own way. As many of our volunteers and educators state, it’s so amazing to have children discover that they like a food that they were once wary of, and can then turn around and influence the rest of their family.

The company  works for truly believes that corporate citizenship starts with their employees. They practice Human Social Responsibility, which means that they take their lead from their team-members in their corporate philanthropy efforts. One such way that they support these efforts is to match their employee’s financial gifts to their preferred nonprofit, up to $250. Susan has been a faithful donor to Vetri Community Partnership since 2014, and in 2017, she was able to have them match her yearly donation to VCP. She is looking forward to doubling her donation this year as she prepares her year-end donation for 2018.

This year, Vetri Community Partnership has partnered with Double your Donation to make your financial impact go so much further. Many companies offer matching gift programs to encourage employees to contribute to charitable organizations, many will match contributions dollar for dollar, and some will even double or triple the amount of your gift! To check if your company will match your contribution click here.

 

Volunteer Highlight  – Celeste and Craig

On a beautiful fall day that felt more like a breezy summer afternoon, Celeste Fiordimondo and Craig McCann volunteer with Vetri Community Partnership’s Vetri Cooking Lab (VCL).  They arrive every Thursday afternoon at 3:15 to support Tamyah Brice, a VCL Educator with Vetri Community Partnership.  For 10 weeks this fall, Celeste and Craig will work with 15 students at Chester A. Arthur School, at 20th and Catherine Streets as a part of Vetri Cooking Lab.  VCL is an out-of-school time program that combines cooking, nutrition education and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) core concepts.  Over a 10 week period, students learn these concepts through recipes and lessons geared towards learning important nutrition lessons like Food Access & Convenience Stores, which was this week’s lesson.  The recipes for this week were Broccoli Salad and Pasta e Ceci.  Upon arriving to the classroom, Tamyah, Craig and Celeste get to work rinsing the fresh vegetables and setting up stations for the students.  While set up is happening, they talk about what recipes they each made the past week and what worked and what didn’t – their own recipe swap of sorts.

Both Celeste and Craig came to VCP just this past summer to start volunteering.  They are both in different times of their lives.  Celeste was newly retired and wanted to continue with a structured day and wanted to volunteer and work with children.  Craig left his engineering career behind to return to school to become a secondary school math teacher.  Both Craig and Celeste feel that the most rewarding part of their experience is watching the students grow each week.  The students are building life skills as they learn how to handle and use a knife correctly.  They both get excited when students try something that they say they never liked, but then leave the class with a new appreciation for that ingredient. The kids are SO proud at the end of class when they present the finished recipe.  The smell of whatever they are making fills the hallway of the first floor.  The smell often pulls the Principal, Mr. Hunter & After school lead Ms. Dee into the classroom for a little “quality control tasting”.  When Mr. Hunter or Ms. Dee come in, the students demonstrate their skills and talk through the ingredients as they are building the recipes.  There is such an immense sense of pride on both Celeste and Craig’s faces.  Ms. Dee admits that she uses the recipes on a regular basis.  Her friends think that she is now a good cook.  At the end of the day, Celeste and Craig feel as if they are making a difference in the lives of the families of the children that they work with as well as many other members of the Chester A. Arthur School community.

Thank you to Celeste, Craig and all of the 100+ volunteers that work with Vetri Community Partnership on a regular basis. Without your time and your talent, we could not provide high quality programs to the many communities in Philadelphia and its surrounding areas.

If you are interested in joining us as a volunteer, we have several different opportunities that may suit your schedule! Click here to find out more.

 

Mobile Teaching Kitchen in the Produce Aisle at PriceRite Camden

September 14, 2018

Our Mobile Teaching Kitchen brings hands-on cooking demonstrations to schools, farmers markets, community events, and now — grocery stores! For the past couple months, our chef educators have been bringing our cooking demos into the produce aisle at PriceRite in Camden, NJ. We spoke to Bob Baylor of Ravitz Family Markets to discuss our growing partnership.

How did this partnership come about?

Leadership at the Ravitz Family Markets, the Family Foundation, and Vetri Community Partnership had a meeting to discuss the many ways we can help bring fresh foods to areas that don’t always have the best access to them. After sharing their many experiences, the idea of bringing the Mobile Teaching Kitchen program to the PriceRite of Camden seemed like a great idea.

What is it like to have the cooking demonstrations at PriceRite?

To be able to share with our customers product knowledge that goes beyond simple display merchandising is quite an opportunity for all of us. Our customers enjoy learning about the fresh fruits and vegetables, but taking it a step further by actually demonstrating the food prep steps is another level that they really appreciate of.

What have you heard from customers about the demonstrations?

The customers really appreciate the Mobile Teaching Kitchen coming into their community. It is another way for the customer to learn more about preparing fresh and healthy foods. The demonstrations also give the customer a chance to taste a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables that they might never have tasted before.

Have you tried any of the recipes from the cooking demonstrations?

OF COURSE! How could we turn away delicious and nutritious food like this?!

Visit us at an upcoming PriceRite event:

  • Wednesday, October 3 – 2-4 p.m.
  • Friday, October 5 – 2-4 p.m.
  • Friday, November 4 – 2-4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, November 6 – 2-4 p.m.

Volunteer Spotlight: Marion, Vetri Cooking Lab

September 4, 2018

Marion Immerman began volunteering with our Vetri Cooking Lab program at McCall Elementary School last year. We asked her a few questions about her experience and what she’s looking forward to this upcoming semester. Thank you Marion for your support of Vetri Cooking Lab and the students that we serve!

Why do you volunteer with our Vetri Cooking Lab program?

Well, first of all, everyone should volunteer. And frankly, I chose Vetri because I like food.

What have you learned from Vetri Cooking Lab?

Besides a lot of great recipes? How — if I can subvert my organizational nature and let things flow more or less organically — almost always, in the time allotted, these kids complete and present a delicious meal. We oversee, but they are very capable.

What are you looking forward to this upcoming semester?

A whole bunch of eager new kids. Trying to learn the names that go along with the faces and personalities which, for me, are easier to track. For ten weeks, becoming a little family.


Interested in joining Vetri Community Partnership as a volunteer? We would love to have you! Visit vetricommunity.org/volunteer.

Mobile Teaching Kitchen Partners with Farm to City Farmers Markets

August 8, 2018

Farm to City and Vetri Community Partnership are teaming up at three farmers market locations in Philadelphia. You’ll find our Mobile Teaching Kitchen (#VetriOnWheels) at Dickinson Square Park and North Front Street markets on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. On Fridays, we’ll be at Gorgas Park from 3 to 7 p.m.

“Our farmers markets have the potential to connect the urban areas with the rural areas that surround the city,” said Jon Glyn, Farm to City’s Farmers Market Program Manager. “But there are a lot of obstacles to making these connections. Vetri’s [Mobile Teaching Kitchen] can help overcome some of these obstacles. Thanks to this program, weekly shoppers will learn more about the fresh food and seasonal produce available at the markets.”

His vision? That shoppers “will take this knowledge home with them along with their groceries and then use the knowledge and food to nourish their friends and families.”

View the Mobile Teaching Kitchen’s full schedule here. To learn more about Farm to City’s farmers markets across the city, visit their website.

Volunteers Needed – Fall 2018

Vetri Community Partnership values the dedicated volunteers that continue to provide support, passion, and excitement within our core programs. As the school year approaches, we have a high need for volunteers specifically within our Vetri Cooking Lab and Mobile Teaching Kitchen programs.

Interested? Click here to create a volunteer profile. All new volunteers are required to create a volunteer profile and attend a volunteer orientation at our offices located at 211 N. 13th Street – Suite 303, Philadelphia, PA 19107. Orientations are held at varying dates and times to accommodate most schedules.

Upcoming Orientations:

  • Wednesday, August 15th, 5:30 – 6:30 pm
  • Monday, August 20th, 5:30 – 6:30 pm
  • Thursday, September 6th, 12:00 – 1:00 pm
  • Monday, September 10th, 5:30 – 6:30 pm
  • Thursday, September 13th, 12:00 – 1:00 pm

Can’t find an orientation time that works for you? Set up a phone call with our Community Engagement Coordinator, Ridhdhi Parmar by emailing her at ridhdhi@vetricommunity.org.

2017-2018 End of School Year Impact Report

June 26, 2018

Since 2008, Vetri Community Partnership has helped schools, organizations & communities bring healthy school lunch and nutrition education programs to their students and families.

During the 2017-2018 school year, we were proud to partner with more sites and engage with more children and adults than ever before.

Vetri Community Partnership

Vetri Cooking Lab: A Perfect Ending

May 21, 2018

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:

  • “I will definitely be cooking this summer!” – Shane
  • “My favorite thing about cooking class was when I learned new things.” – Julia
  • “A few things that I like about cooking class is you meet new people, you get to make great food, you get to help people.” – Alexis
  • “I like Vetri Cooking Lab because you get to cook things that you never cooked before. There is also a lot of people there to help you. The food is very delicious and most people agree with that.” – Israel
  • “Dish washing was my favorite, and I was good at it!” – Michael
  • “I learned to cook dinner for my family.” – Kiera

View Past News Stories

Explore More!