About 6 months after moving to Los Angeles, I was introduced to an incredible organization called Miriam's House. It's a residential home located in Culver City, that houses up to 12 women and their children for a year. It is transitional living for these moms to get back on their feet after battling with addiction to drugs and/or alcohol. And sadly, for many at or below the poverty line, a choice has to be made whether you want to get sober OR keep your children. Luckily, Miriam's House is one of the very few places in Los Angeles where you can do both.
Although sobriety & parenting are at the top of the priority list for Miriam's House, a glaring need for these women and children was better access to nutrition & whole foods education. The more I spent time at the house and listened, I learned that all of the women are on food stamps, a system which incentivizes them to shop for food at 7-11 than the local farmer's market. Many of them have never even been to the grocery store, let alone know how to cook a wholesome meal for their children. Add to this the added whammy of being a recovering addict, where the likelihood of being addicted to the sugar and salt in our country's processed foods is that much higher.
A staggering 4.4 million Californians are on food stamps, and here in LA County, over 80% of our school kids are dependent on school as their source of breakfast and lunch. Recognizing this, and knowing that the food crisis in our country is something much larger than me, I thought a lot about what could I uniquely do in this situation.
In my philanthropic consulting work, I talk a lot about the time, treasure, and talent that we all have to give away. While I personally don't have all the money in the world to give away, I have my time and a background in nutrition education that I can pass along to the women of Miriam's House. So, about 6 months ago, I began hosting a monthly workshop at the house where I make a wholesome/affordable dinner with the women, showing them the ingredients I use and how to use them. I'm also there to offer encouragement and answer questions they have about how to become healthier or how to start weining their kids off the boxed macaroni & cheese.
I'm a believer that we need to meet people where they're at. I don't advocate going on a diet, or eating strictly organic~ but rather how to be more mindful and creative about getting more whole foods (namely fruits & vegetables) in their day-to-day. And once they and their kids taste how good veggies can be (ie cauliflower fried rice and pizza crust!!!), they're more inclined to think a little bit differently about the choices they are making.
These monthly workshops mean the world to me, which is why a portion of the proceeds I make from my regular 'Milk & Cookies' workshops go to funding them. It's my small but impactful way to ensure whole foods & whole foods education is reaching those who need it most here in Los Angeles. In my opinion, wellness & nutrition shouldn't be a privilege based on where you live, it should be a human right available to all.
To learn more about Miriam's House, please visit www.promisesfoundation.org. And if you're ever inclined to come teach with me (OR have foods/kitchen equipment you want to donate), please let me know!