High schoolers Nikki Rejai and Lucy Sheeran do not consider themselves experts in the kitchen, but each week, they sharpen their culinary skills by volunteering with Positive Community Kitchen.
“I wanted to try something outside my comfort zone,” Nikki says. “I’ve come to love it. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I’ve met a lot of cool people.”
Positive Community Kitchen is a donation-supported program in Eugene where teens and adult volunteers work alongside Nicole Craig, PCK’s nutrition education manager, to prepare organic meals for people fighting life-threatening illnesses.
“All the food we prepare is nutrient-dense,” Nicole says. “Many of our clients are dealing with illnesses, such as cancer, that challenge their immune systems, so it’s really important that we provide meals with lots of vitamins, as well as fiber.”
Every Monday and Tuesday, Nicole leads a group of volunteers in preparing two soups, two entrées, an entrée salad and a dessert for 75 people, then the meals are delivered to patients. Volunteers also work in the Positive Community Kitchen garden on Wednesdays and Saturdays to help grow some of the vegetables used in the kitchen. The rest of the produce is received through FOOD for Lane County and provided by farms in the community.
“Volunteering is not difficult to do, and the outcome is just amazing,” Lucy says. “I think it’s really important to take a small amount of time out of your week to do something that is helpful to people.”
In addition to preparing meals, teens who volunteer with PCK learn valuable skills, including working as a team and learning to take direction; and they take away a better understanding of where food comes from and how to prepare a meal.
“The teens are a delight to watch, because they get so excited about the food,” Nicole says. “We share with them the thank you cards we receive from our clients, and I think it inspires them. They know they’re doing a service for the community, and they’re learning something we should all be taught as children—how to prepare healthy meals that taste really good.”
Positive Community Kitchen currently has a waiting list for meals. The nonprofit hopes to increase the number of people it serves each week from 75 to 100 by May 1, but it needs more volunteers to make that happen.
If you or your teen can give a couple of hours a week to volunteer in the kitchen or the garden, especially through the summer months, or if you are interested in delivering the meals, click here.
Teens must be 14 years or older and have an Oregon Food Handler’s Card to volunteer in the kitchen. All ages are welcome to volunteer in the garden.
If you cannot donate your time, but would like to support Positive Community Kitchen, monetary donations are always welcome, as well as donations of pantry ingredients and kitchen and garden equipment.