Volunteering gives you an opportunity to see lives changed, including your own. My time at Christian Service Mission as an intern with the Cooking Well program gave me the opportunity to play a role in someone’s life that I normally would not. I have been in my Dietetic Internship rotations as a Graduate student at Samford University. I have been assisting the Cooking Well Director, Judy Vann, for my community rotation. Bringing her immersion in healthy food choices from eMeals to CSM, Judy does an extensive amount to promote nutrition in the community. It has been an inspiration to see her vision play out in these classes. I have been able to give back to my community while also acquiring important nutrition experience that I can use in my career.

Community is the feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. Through this class I had the opportunity to form community in an unexpected place. This class gave me the opportunity to meet people I would not normally cross paths with. I saw firsthand how Cooking Well unites people of different ages and ethnicities in order to break cultural barriers. Even though many of us come from different backgrounds, food and nutrition unifies us and gives us the opportunity to connect.

Community is the feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

During Week 4 of this six-week class session I had the opportunity to research and teach a nutrition lesson about cutting down on added sugars and diabetes. We chose this topic because diabetes is so widespread in our state. Many of the students in the class are facing pre-diabetes or diabetes, or someone close to them has the diagnosis. This gave me the opportunity to teach the students valuable information in prevention and management of this disease.

Many of the students reported they would take the information home to their own families. This class helped to answer questions to an audience who has limited access to health education opportunities. One student mentioned to Judy, “You have no idea the impact this is having on my life.”

My experience working with this program has not only helped the Christian Service Mission community, but has impacted my life. It has opened my eyes to the lack of nutrition resources in the areas of our city where CSM is so heavily invested. I believe that God is using this cooking class to break cultural barriers while also equipping the students with nutrition information and preparing them to be a part of a new effort to make our communities healthier. The Lord not only worked in the lives of the students in the class, but also used this to open my eyes to the reality of our community.

Cooking Well reaches people from all around our city in order to give them the tools to make healthier choices. There are many cultural barriers, food deserts, and underserved areas in Birmingham. This class helped me to see the reality of these situations, while giving me a passion to use my education to help others. I believe Cooking Well is a unique program that is an important, deep dive into reaching the underserved areas of our community.

By Jessica Burleson, Samford University Nutrition and Dietetic Graduate intern. Jessica has contributed a great deal to the Cooking Well program during her rotation with CSM.