Northern Virginia Family Service’s (NVFS) SERVE Campus is bringing healthy cooking demos and education to the Hunger Resource Center (HRC) in an effort to educate the public on the benefits of nutritious meals.
The HRC serves nearly 600 families in Prince William County each month, granting them access to affordable food, nutritional workshops, SNAP benefits enrollment assistance, and now healthy cooking demos every other Wednesday, where clients can learn how to create healthful meals at home with the foods they receive from the HRC.
Darrell Dixon, HRC warehouse manager and leader of the healthy cooking demos, says that in addition to offering taste tests to get clients excited about new dishes, the healthy cooking demos teach various ways to prepare unfamiliar ingredients at home.
“A lot of our clients are unfamiliar with products because they’ve never seen them before. One client didn’t know what the can of biscuits she was holding was, so I had to open them for her and explain. Having food demos and taste tests help with that,” Dixon explains.
Dixon, the HRC staff and countless volunteers are passionate about feeding and educating people in need, dedicating their time to volunteering with the HRC, and raising awareness about hunger in our area.
Kyleen, who has been volunteering at the HRC since 2010, says, “I believe there shouldn’t be any hungry people. At the HRC, they feed people, and I felt like this was the place for me.”
Kyleen volunteers at the HRC every Wednesday. Because of her consistent volunteer work, she has formed relationships with long-term clients.
“They learn to trust you and share their life with you. You meet a lot of people from different backgrounds, some of which you wouldn’t imagine seeing at the HRC to receive services. Anyone can be here,” Kyleen shares. “It’s nice to see people say ‘thank you’ and hug you, and it makes you feel warm inside like you really are helping your community. I enjoy that.”
More than 33,000 individuals in Prince William County face food insecurity. As a result, they must often choose between paying rent and putting a meal on the table. The HRC helps individuals avoid this difficult choice and stave off the perils of homelessness.
“The HRC’s services are important because we have a lot of clients here who have to make the decision whether to pay their rent or get food, and the HRC offers them the opportunity to take some of that pressure off. Being able to come here once a month really helps people. They really depend on us,” Dixon observes.
Apart from affording quality food, HRC clients also face other challenges that can be alleviated through the help of volunteers.
“A lot of our clients are elderly, so transportation and getting around in general is pretty difficult, and many of our clients don’t even have transportation,” Dixon notes. “Having volunteers who could bring food to the elderly and to people without transportation so they don’t have to pay to come here would help.”
“You should always be there to help people, and whenever there’s a need, you’ve got to fulfill it.” – Toni, HRC volunteer
Thousands of families in Prince William County are benefiting from the HRC by having access to food in times of emergency. Through nutrition classes and the recently implemented cooking demonstrations, clients are now learning how to use the ingredients they purchase to cook meals that will nourish their families.
“Every time I go to your food closet and get food for my family, I am so grateful that I want to put my arms around each and every one of you here with a tear in my eye for making every month feel like Christmas!” – HRC client
The importance of the HRC to our community is clear, and the services we provide will only continue to expand as more people become involved.
“When I discovered this job, I fell in love with the idea of helping people. I never saw anything like this growing up. It really impacted me and made me get my whole family involved in this,” shares Dixon.
“If you have time, come in and help out. It’s a wonderful experience.” – Toni, HRC volunteer