Learning to cook is an important skill to carry throughout your life, which is why Brenda Ryan started adaptive cooking classes, giving individuals with any type of disability the opportunity to be successful in their own kitchen.
She worked with an agency that provided services to the disabled and decided to have a pot luck lunch. When she was the only one who arrived with home cooked food and everyone else brought packaged sweet treats, she realized something needed to change.
Ryan figured getting people together for one class to teach those with disabilities how to find ways to adapt and cook healthy on a budget in their own kitchen would be a fun event, but now five years later the program is still going strong.
Joyce Bennett is a volunteer and says, “it’s important to share that nutrition piece with them so when they only have five dollars to spend they choose something like a vegetable that can be made into several different things.”
Ryan stresses the importance of nutrition when it comes those with a disability because “they are not in a position where they can go to a gym and workout or join a team, they can be physically limited by their disability so it becomes much more important to maintain a healthy lifestyle based on your diet, not just exercise.”
The classes become a place where not only the participants learn about food, they are able to get out and socialize and gain the confidence to cook as well as to converse with others.
“That’s the best part they learn to socialize with people they often wouldn’t be with and that’s so important for people with a disability because a lot of the time they are housebound,” Bennett says.
The program is free for those who need them, making everyone involved a volunteer.
“There is no paid staff anywhere, we’re all volunteers. The hotel, the executive chef, the porter services that help bring the things in and out of the classroom. We give from our hearts,” Ryan explains as she stresses the importance and her appreciation for everyone involved.
Volunteers like Maegan Izawa say she’s learned, “how disabilities don’t really define us, that I can talk to any of the students or volunteers here and it’s just like meeting an awesome person and they can do so much.”