As we celebrate Volunteer Appreciation Week here at Tarrant Area Food Bank (TAFB), we would like to take time to recognize the dedicated people who help make the work we do possible. One of these dedicated people is Kristine James, who regularly volunteers as a Nutrition Instructor for Cooking Matters®. Throughout the six-week course, participants learn practical tips and techniques to help them eat healthy on a budget. Seeing the participants grow as the course progresses is one of the things that motivates Kristine to be a part of Cooking Matters. Learn more about Kristine in the interview below.

Where are you from? I’m originally from Germany, close to Munich. I live in Fort Worth.

What is your profession? I am a trained hotel professional but I am going to school to become a registered dietitian. I am going to graduate in the spring next year.

How did you first hear about TAFB and get involved? One of the reasons I first got involved was to get more nutrition education experience. I really enjoy teaching. I had heard about Cooking Matters before and wanted to get involved. I was looking online and found the opportunity there. This is the second Cooking Matters course I have taught. My first course took place earlier this year at REACH [a TAFB Partner Agency].

What are your responsibilities as Nutrition Instructor for Cooking Matters? To teach the students about nutrition, to teach them about MyPlate and how to read a nutrition label and to show them the easiest ways to make healthy food choices. We go into the different food groups individually each week and then we teach them easy ways to make meals. We take them to the grocery store and then they have a little challenge to pick out food with all of the information they learned.

How have you seen the Cooking Matters participants grow throughout the class? The grocery store tour is awesome because you go through every aisle and you have an opportunity to talk to the participants. In the last class I was a part of, I remember one girl who never spoke up during the class started coming out of her shell at the grocery store. It was great just to see that. She was like “I know this” and “here’s what you can do with this” and I’m like “yes, that’s right!” When the light bulb turns on, it’s wonderful to see.

How have you grown by volunteering with Cooking Matters? I’m more confident about teaching nutrition and being able to apply knowledge. Most of my classes in school right now are only theory-based so to be able to teach what I’ve learned in a Cooking Matters class is really great; like to realize, “oh yeah, I know that and I can tell people about it!” It’s been awesome. It all shows me that I am doing the right thing—pursuing the right career.

What do you enjoy most about volunteering with TAFB in Cooking Matters? To be able to help people eat healthy, to make changes to their lifestyles, to realize what they can do, even on a budget, and how much they can change to eat better. Also, if they are parents, they will pass it on to their kids. I’m a mom, so it’s important because kids learn from their parents.

Why do you think it’s important for people to volunteer with TAFB? Because it helps people. Having food is the basis of your being. Without food, you can’t live. The food bank lives off its volunteers. This work couldn’t happen without volunteers.

Do you have any advice you would like to share with people who are interested in Cooking Matters, but aren’t quite sure if they should get involved? Come and just watch a class. Sit in and watch and see if it’s the right thing for you.

Learn more about Cooking Matters volunteer opportunities in this blog post. Visit our Volunteer page to see a list of all of our opportunities.

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