Knowing that I’m obsessed with all things food, my friends will sometimes ask me if the meals I cook for myself are epic. I’ll think about it for a second, knowing the answer I’m about to tell them probably isn’t the one they expect or want to hear. The answer? As epic as some sharp cheddar stacked on a few water crackers. Or if I’m going ALL out, maybe a banana and almond butter. It is the sad truth that I can and have sustained myself on those four things for days. I guess that comes with being a college student… or just being lazy sometimes.
My love for food is not represented by the meals I choose to throw together for myself. Rather, my true passion lies in putting something warm and delicious on a plate and giving it to someone else to enjoy. Put my love of feeding others together with a desire to give back to the community and what do you get? You get 24 homemade tuna sandwiches, an overflowing heap of butterless (and delicious) chocolate chip oatmeal and coconut cookies, and a counter-full of mini cucumber sandwiches filled with a zesty dill-yogurt sauce.
A few months ago, I came across the Lincoln Park Community Shelter in a search for volunteer opportunities in the area. I’m ashamed to admit that it had been a while since I had given back to the community in any way, and with the holidays surrounding me, I wanted to spend some time locally helping people who maybe weren’t having such a great holiday season. Living in Lincoln Park myself, I immediately looked into LPCS, filled out a volunteer form, and waited to hear back with approval to begin signing up for things. Before long, a wonderful woman named Dawn reached out to me letting me know my form was received and that I could now look into volunteering through the shelter. Right away, I was able to find an opportunity that involved making sack lunches for some of the homeless community in the area. I quickly signed up for it, already beginning a mental list of healthy and substantial things to pack in the lunches.
If you love cooking or are looking for a way to give back, be sure to look into shelters like LPCS that offer hot meals to the local public who cannot afford a warm meal on their own. While I was preparing the sack lunches, all I could think about was how happy I was that these would be going to people who would be so appreciative and thankful for what seemed to me a somewhat small gesture on my part. It was an extremely rewarding experience to say the very least.
As someone who works directly with food day in and day out, I find that at times I feel I am in a sort of food bubble, where food is abundant and easily accessible. In an environment like this, it might seem easy to almost take food for granted and become temporarily naive to the notion that there are dozens of people nearby who are hungry and lack any ways of nourishing themselves. When joining The Chopping Block team, I was elated to learn that as a company, we have and continue to do what we can to help hungry people in Chicago by donating our surplus food to a group called Zero Percent. Zero Percent’s mission is to help businesses achieve zero food waste by distributing surplus food to hungry people in Chicago.
Not into volunteering in the kitchen? There are tons of other awesome ways to give back through LPCS and other shelters - check them out!