“The food and the learning (and the sense of community) brought them together.” -Benjamin Brennan
Benjamin Brennan is the former Food for Families Coordinator at MGH Chelsea. He was responsible for inviting patients to participate in the Cooking Matters courses and arranging transportation to ensure their attendance. He also attended the courses.
“I really enjoyed the classes. All of the classes were really sensitive to the patients and their economic situation as well as the culture differences that each different patient brings to the table.
“There were language, religious and food differences. Surprisingly enough, Cooking Matters classes brought those patients together. Participants were of lots of different cultures including Central American, Honduran, El Salvadorian, Peruvian, Arabic, and different versions of Muslim.
“I definitely noticed changes as the classes went on. One of the interpreters explained that Arabic patients started socializing more with other Arabics of different religions during the cooking classes, whereas previously they wanted nothing to do with each other. The food and the learning (and the sense of community) brought them together.
“The meals were very different than what they are used to eating/preparing and they really enjoyed them. Of course they were free to take out and add in ingredients to help them adapt to the different foods.
“Most of the patients have said that what they have learned has made a huge difference in their lives. For the most part, it will affect how they feed their families. Most of them have children and I have heard some stories of the kids saying they really liked the food. Stories are even better when the mothers actually involve the kids with the cooking and so the children participate in these new recipes. Mothers were more than willing to share their experiences with the children because the children really enjoyed the experience of cooking together.
“My favorite part of my job is helping my patients get through the six Cooking Matters classes and then hearing how it has affected their lives and the differences it has made. It’s really going to help them provide nutritional information to their children.”