After a long summer of writing curriculum, organizing materials, and preparing educators to lead sessions, we are all set to launch Vetri Cooking Lab, EAT360, and Culinary Medicine for the 2019-2020 school year.
According to Celia Mason, Vetri Cooking Lab (VCL) Program Manager, “It’s such an exciting time of year. VCL is launching at 37 sites (seven of which are new) and training a team of 25 Educators (over a dozen of which are new)!”
Thanks to renewed support from GSK, this 10-week culinary and nutrition education program which highlights STEAM (science, tech, engineering, arts, and science) core concepts will be able to reach more youth than ever before. Some of the new sites include: Edward Steel School in Hunting Park, Forrest Elementary in Tacony, and KIPP Lanning Square in Camden, NJ.
After a successful 2018-2019 school year, EAT360, our SNAP-Ed funded program, is also experiencing growth this year by partnering with two new sites: Chester A. Arthur School in Graduate Hospital and Universal Alcorn Charter in Grays Ferry.
“We’re really looking forward to the new year with all of our schools! Our nutrition educators can’t wait to start their in-school time classes for students, after-school community ed sessions for adults, and to begin their efforts to support a culture of wellness in their school communities,” said Mary Bullock, EAT360 Program Director.
Working not just in schools, but also in healthcare settings, VCP is now in its second year of offering culinary and nutrition education classes for fourth-year medical students at Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine.
The students have found this course in Culinary Medicine incredibly valuable in helping to prepare them to coach their future patients in nutritious cooking. According to med student Krystal Hill, “This course helped me realize that as a doctor I can empower my patients to reach their health goals by teaching them about healthy, delicious cooking techniques.”
As all of these programs begin to ramp up, Mobile Teaching Kitchen workshops, demonstrations, and tastings at various sites in our region remain steady. Even as the weather gets colder, the truck will continue programming throughout the fall and winter seasons.
Say hello to Erika, our new Vetri Cooking Lab Coordinator and one of our newest staff members here at VCP! In this brand new role, she will be helping to grow and manage the Vetri Cooking Lab program, especially through site coordination and logistics.
To help you get to know her on a more personal level, we sat down with Erika to ask her a few questions as a part of a #VCPeople Q&A:
Q: So what did you do before you came to Vetri Community Partnership, Erika?
Erika: Well right now I’m a Registered Dietician to-be going to school part-time at Rutgers. Beyond that, my background is in Nutrition & Dietetics. I’ve worked with youth all my life and had various experiences with other nutrition-related nonprofits during my college career.
Q: Given it seems like you’ve had lots of experiences with other non-profits, what specifically draws you to the work of VCP?
Erika: My passions in life are people (especially youth), wellness promotion, food and nutrition, science, and the local Philadelphia community. So when I found VCP it was like finding the intersection of all the things in life that I love! How could you beat that?
Q: It sounds like you’re excited to be in this role! What do you hope to accomplish in your work here at VCP?
Erika: My main goal is to help even more of our neighbors get the opportunity to fall in love with food and cooking like I have! I think VCP has made an incredible impact, but there is always room for more growth. I hope to be able to get creative with new ways to see our mission continue to blossom!
Q: So other than exploring your love of food and cooking, what do you like to do in your free time?
Erika: I’m usually pretty busy with school and work, but other than that I love yoga and spinning, spending time with my daughter and my friends, trying new local food spots, and rooting for the Eagles!
Q: Alright we just have one final question – if you were a fruit or a veggie what would you be and why?
Erika: Oh, wow! Let’s see, if I were a vegetable I’d be Brussels sprouts. I’m not sure why, maybe just because I’m craving them right now, ha! And if I were a fruit, I’d be… A PINEAPPLE! Mostly because their leaves remind me of my crazy hair.
If you see Erika around at one of your schools, be sure to stop and say hello!
On the beautiful evening of Saturday April 27th, Vetri Community Partnership held our 2nd Annual Eat to Empower Dinner Series and Food Festival.
The Eat to Empower Dinner Series included a group of six invitation-only dinners that were held in private locations throughout the city. Here we were honored to have some of the nation’s best chefs join us to partner with a selection of Philadelphia’s finest chefs to prepare a fantastic meal for each of the hosts and their guests.
That same evening at Cherry Street Pier, over 450 Eat to Empower Food Festival guests came hungry and ready to enjoy a sampling of Philly’s most popular local restaurants and beverage companies. The beautiful views, weather, raffles, auctions, music and much more all added to the appeal of the evening!
Before the night was over, guests at both the Dinner Series and the Food Festival helped to raise over $300,000 to support our culinary and nutrition education programs.
Our Mobile Teaching Kitchen has had quite a busy year! One of the most exciting additions includes the purchasing of another vehicle, adding to our fleet of now three. This new Mobile Teaching Kitchen “Mini” is a smaller version of our current trucks, which allows us to more efficiently reach our program partners to deliver indoor programming such as workshops and demos without all of the bulk of the full sized trucks.
With the help of all three of our trucks, MTK made over 250 visits between September and May, delivering over 1,800 hours of nutrition education to over 10,000 participants throughout the Philly and Camden region. Doing this was a tremendous team effort which required all hands on deck and the addition of one new full-time and three new part-time MTK staff members, as well as the help of our many volunteers.
This Summer we have over 100 more visits scheduled where we hope to help inspire a love of food and cooking within children and adults across Philadelphia and Camden. Look for #VetriOnWheels on our social media, especially on MTK Monday, to see where the truck will be next!
Vetri Cooking Lab had a year of tremendous growth, expanding from 23 cooking lab sites each semester to 32 this year! This expansion also included the addition of brand new audiences.
Of note is our new partnership with the Achieving Independence Center (AIC) in North Philly – here we host VCL for youth ages 15-20 within the foster care system that will soon be living on their own. This is exciting because the youth are building life skills, confidence in the kitchen, and knowledge that will help them make informed decisions around purchasing, cooking, and eating food!
We also launched programming at our first high school – Liguori Academy in Kensington. This expansion has allowed us to dive deeper into our conversations around food and expand our recipes to challenge an older audience which has more agency over their food decisions.
“I like getting to learn more about cooking because my New Year’s Resolution was to learn how to do it on my own. I’m also happy that it was healthy foods because it taught me that not everything has to be loaded with sugar for me to like it.”
-Jay, 11th Grader at AIC
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.
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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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’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 (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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OF COURSE! How could we turn away delicious and nutritious food like this?!