Food pantry fights hunger in many ways

Vancouver nonprofit One Life also offers cooking classes

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter

Published:

 

One Life or call 360-904-1273.

One Life or call 360-904-1273.

A fledgling chef has discovered one of the many benefits of doing his own cooking.

If you don’t like an ingredient in a recipe, “you don’t have to put it in when you make it,” Alexander Bolon Manrero explained.

He was taking part in a recent cooking class offered by a Vancouver nonprofit, One Life. The 9-year-old boy was there with his mother, Ruth Manrero, and sister Seudy Bolon, 7.

They were among a dozen people from six households who gathered in the basement kitchen of Vancouver Vineyard Church for a series of six Wednesday night classes.

“You come across a lot of young adults who can’t cook,” said Sarah Krause, who was helping her sons — Evan Bearden, 8, and Ryan Bearden, 10 — with a recipe.

The nutritional-ed sessions are just one part of One Life, a community service organization working to reduce hunger.

“We have quite a few different programs,” Executive Director Andrea Walker said. “We have a food pantry where people can get a box of food intended to last from three to five days.”

Unlike other places where people can get emergency food boxes, One Life has a “shopping” pantry. Visitors can choose food they actually would eat. (A volunteer helps them keep nutrition in mind, Walker said).

The food pantry at 2007 E. 12th St., just east of Hudson’s Bay High School, feeds about 200 families a month. And those visits are part of the educational process, Walker said.

“We make things from ingredients available at the pantry. If it’s dried beans, we have tastings of turkey chili,” Walker said.

People can sign up for the nutritional-ed classes at the pantry.

When the weather gets a little better, volunteers will put in a community garden. It will be a source of fresh produce for the pantry, but it also will also serve as an outdoor classroom to teach organic gardening.

“Talk about a committed person,” said Joyce Neyland, who is a grant writer for the Clark County Food Bank. “The food bank is expanding into nutritional education, and Andrea took it on even earlier.

“Giving food is wonderful,” Neyland said. “Teaching people how to cook it is another thing.”

Based on a recent visit to a Wednesday class, teaching people how to cook can mean a lot of things.

“Tonight, we’re doing three recipes,” Walker said. “We take everyday recipes and try to make them healthy, like non-fried chicken that’s coated with corn flakes and baked.

“We talk about how to buy in bulk, how to make better choices,” Walker continued. And when dinner is done, “They all eat together. It’s like building a community.

“We follow our clients, and six months later, 90 percent tell us they changed their lifestyles,” Walker said.

Some of that is personal satisfaction.

“It makes me proud to eat what I cook,” said 10-year-old Ryan Bearden. It also makes him proud “when other people like it, too.”

And some of the follow-through comes from seeing results.

Fara Gill said she cooks — and shops — with low sodium and low fat in mind. She is eating less red meat and more chicken.

“I lost 15 pounds when I started eating right,” Gill said.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.

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