CulinaryCorps


Puerto Rico Daily Update 5: Iniciativa Comunitaria
February 5, 2010, 7:32 pm
Filed under: Puerto Rico February 2010

Today’s CulinaryCorps volunteer mission required juggling several moving parts.

First, we planned to create 150 meals for the homeless population in San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Second, we aimed to connect with the Culinary Arts students at InterAmerican University, who so graciously let us crash their kitchen for the project.  These wonderful students, led by Silvio and our current volunteer Brenda, fundraised over $1,200 through on-campus bake sales and barbecues in support of this CulinaryCorps trip.

And third, we sought to teach fundamental kitchen techniques to the clients of Iniciativa Comunitaria, an expansive non-profit organization that operates over 30 programs to aid homeless, drug addicts, sex workers, and children living in violence.  Among their many programs, Iniciativa Comunitaria has established a number of half-way homes that lend services and support to individuals in need.  Although these half-way homes have been hugely helpful in many ways, they have suffered from one important drawback:  upon exiting the program, many of the individuals do not know how to cook for themselves — not even an egg!  We believed the CulinaryCorps team could help with that.

We started our day by getting to know the InterAmerican students and preparing our educational action stations.  Each station was assigned a different recipe, which would become dishes for feeding San Juan’s homeless as well as today’s volunteers.  The recipes were tailored to showcase to the Iniciativa trainees basic cooking skills such as baking, sautéing, and knife skills, all using ingredients that were affordable, accessible, and healthful.

Our menu for the day included:

  • Fresh Greens with Vinaigrette and Homemade Croutons
  • Bacon and Cheddar Cornbread with a Selection of Compound Butters
  • Tomato and Cucumber Pico de Gallo
  • White Bean and Roasted Pepper Chili
  • Oatmeal-Walnut (Whole Wheat) Chocolate Chip Cookies

After a couple of hours of setup, the participants from Iniciativa arrived and everyone got to work.  Within three hours, we had enough food to feed us heartily and plenty of servings for the Iniciativa volunteers to distribute later this evening.

As the late-afternoon sun receded behind the palms, everyone gathered around one long communal table to share a common meal.

As we ate, we reflected on a statement by of one of today’s participants, who is also the cook in the half-way home he lives in:

“You do not cook for a paycheck.  You cook for love.”

This aphorism precisely captures our sentiments about this week of culinary volunteer work.  Our experience on this beautiful island has been truly singular . . . we look forward to another fruitful CulinaryCorps trip to Puerto Rico!

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2 Comments so far
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What an incredible difference you all have made in the lives of these people and they have also touched each of you; all the smiles tell the real story.

Comment by Mary Ann Botta

[…] Day 5 – Iniciativa Comunitaria (IC) – Provides social services to struggling populations in San Juan. In partnership with the Inter-American University Culinary program, we worked with a select group of the IC population to teach basic kitchen skills and how to create a balanced budget and tasty meal for them to prepare at home. Meals were shared by the students and chefs and packed for distribution throughout San Juan, and delivered to the homeless populations. […]

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