“Whatever it takes” has been the mantra that’s carried Vetri Community Partnership through a transformative 2019–2020. We’ve adapted, adjusted, and grown in new and unexpected ways. And we’ve remained committed to our mission of providing accessible, affordable approachable nutrition education through cooking.
In the beginning of the year, we were doing whatever it takes to bring our hands-on programming to over 75 sites across the region, teaching more children, families, and students than ever before how to prepare delicious, nutritious foods. When COVID-19 arrived and we were met with stay-at-home orders, we quickly pivoted to move our programs to virtual platforms in order to reach and support our community, and to provide our frontline healthcare workers with fresh meals to take home at the end of a shift.
We’re nourishing minds and bodies through delicious food, even virtually.
Using the kitchen as a classroom, VCP builds culinary skills, nutritional knowledge and confidence through fun and engaging experiences. Our programs nourish minds, bodies, and communities by encouraging curiosity and teamwork and fostering a communal respect for food and one another.
The recipes we teach use affordable and accessible ingredients, and are plant-forward in design, making them packed with vitamins, nutrients and minerals. Just as important, they are delicious — a key to influencing long-term behavior.
During the pandemic, Vetri Community Partnership has been able to successfully transition our educational programs to live, interactive experiences using platforms including Zoom, Google Hangouts, and BlueJeans. Inviting participants virtually into our educators’ home kitchens has created opportunities for conversation around food and culture, personal stories, and histories that build a sense of appreciation and community, even if online.
We’re building new virtual capacity.
An unanticipated silver lining of the pandemic is that VCP has been able to reach new audiences and serve as a resource beyond our classroom’s physical footprint. By transitioning our programs to the virtual world, we have been able to serve more students and communities than ever before.
In taking our programs online, we have been able to engage entire classes, families and public groups at once.
Going forward, we plan to expand our virtual resources to provide content across multiple platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok, and design live and pre-recorded programming through a dedicated web portal.
Better data, better decision making.
VCP is now a proud member of the RISE Partnership Learning Collaborative, a cohort of local non-profits working to increase organizational effectiveness through program evaluation. We are working to sharpen our assessment of program activities and outcomes and improving our capacity to collect, understand and use data to improve our programming.
We’ve invested in a relational database and data visualization tools to track year-over-year impact, participant feedback, and overall program efficiency. These findings will help to direct resources and improve program design across all of our work.
We affirmed our commitment to racial equity and diversity.
In the wake of the national outcry following the death of George Floyd, VCP reaffirmed our commitment to antiracism through our internal CARES (Collaboration, Action, Respect, Equity, and Sensitivity) Committee. The committee is made up of both full- and part-time staff and is focused on expanding and guiding organizational diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at VCP.
We are ensuring that our mission, hiring, partnerships and programs are guided by continued organizational learning with a focus on cultural competency, social determinants of health, combating bias, and anti-racism. Our efforts are focused on contributing to an equitable society, one that values the voices and foods of cultures from around the world that are all represented in the Philadelphia region.
We’re cutting down on food waste.
Over the past year, VCP has taken several steps to reduce our carbon footprint. The Mobile Teaching Kitchen has fully transitioned from plastic to all-compostable serveware and centralized the ingredient procurement process. Through initiatives like Veggie of the Month, we’ve focused our recipes on a common ingredient and ordered in bulk, further cutting down on waste. Discarded produce is donated and repurposed as farm feed for Garden State Goat Farm, eliminating our food waste almost entirely, and students at several Vetri Cooking Lab sites also began incorporating composting into their classrooms. By bringing the food system full circle, we hope to encourage youth to limit their own food waste and be conscious of the Earth and its climate.
One of the teachers has a worm composter in the classroom and the students were so excited to bring our scraps to the worms.”
Kristin S., Tilden Middle School Vetri Cooking Lab Educator
We’re integrating medicine, wellness and food.
Our Culinary Medicine program continues to flourish, as we empower future physicians to think about how food is medicine and how diet can affect one’s well-being. Medical students participate in hands-on cooking workshops with dietitians to gain nutritional knowledge that they can share when counseling patients.
Our community-based workshops teach patients to enhance their cooking skills with recipes that support their personal nutritional needs. This year, our medical school partners included Perelman School of Medicine and Jefferson University Hospitals, with patient and community partnerships at CHOP, the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Maria de los Santos Health Center, Horizon House, Families Forward Philadelphia, Abbottsford-Falls Family Practice & Counseling Network, and Independence Blue Cross.
This was the most impactful class I have taken in med school. The VCP team clearly brought experience in working with the community and an infectious joy that really gave us the motivation to learn.”
Jake G., Perelman School of Medicine student and Culinary Medicine participant
We’re supporting community members in need — including our frontline workers.
In May, Vetri Community Partnership began preparing and distributing carryout meals for frontline healthcare workers and their families at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. Each week, we distributed 480 meals to feed the families of medical workers, maintenance staff, and unpaid residents at the hospital.
In a second initiative this summer, we delivered 240 meals a week to North Philadelphia families at the Lenfest Center.
These programs were staffed by VCP’s part-time Educators. Funding has been provided by the PHL COVID-19 Fund with support from the Fitler Club.
The support from our community serves as the common thread that unites as all to overcome the trials we have been faced with. We will be forever grateful for your generous donation of meals to our frontline workers and their families.”
Jessie R., Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania
We’re making news.
During the home-bound days of COVID-19, media organizations turned to VCP for content to help Philadelphia viewers prepare healthy and delicious meals together. VCP Educators demonstrated recipes for a CBS3 “What’s for Dinner?” segment and NBC10 as part of the Wawa Welcome America Festival in July.
The 2020 Wawa Welcome America Festival segment and NBC10 Philly Live featured VCP educators Erika Dorsey, Jie Bin Chen and Celia Mason preparing a healthy breakfast wrap and other nutritious recipes that promote good mental health.