Shaili Parekh joined the HIP team just last month and has already dished out some incredible meals. You can read her introduction here. In this blog post, she reflects on her journey with HIP so far.
I’ve been at HIP as our new Meal Program Coordinator for a whole month now and I can’t believe how time has flown by! My first week was a whirlwind of meeting lots of new faces and diving right into preparing 180 meals alongside Bryn on her last week. The first week was easy – due to construction caused by the previous coffee pot flood, it was all packing up ready-to-eat foods. I couldn’t imagine that once construction was done we’d be prepping, cooking, and packing up delicious from-scratch meals including dessert for so many people in just 3 hours!
Fast forward to right now, we are doing just that and continuing to sign up more seniors and growing our program. It hasn’t been without its challenges. Even though I’ve had culinary training and worked in restaurants, nothing could have prepared me to lead volunteers in cooking such high-volumes within the limits of a church kitchen.
As a newbie, I’ve learned so many tips and tricks from our fellow staff and AmeriCorps like how to most efficiently fold quesadillas on a sheet tray to feed as many people as possible or how to arrange to-go boxes and slide them over for the fastest packing assembly line. While the fast-pace of the kitchen is something familiar to me, the support, encouragement and the relaxed atmosphere created by our staff and volunteers is something I look forward to everyday.
Getting to know our seniors and regulars and their stories at the Lake City Community Center has made me feel like part of a community. In the absence of being able to sit down for a meal with fellow community members, I hope the care we put into our food can still be tasted and is a source of nourishment and comfort in times that can feel isolating and difficult.
What I’ve also witnessed in serving meals is that our to-go meal service is still a place where our diners can talk to one another about life, make jokes, and crack smiles but with masks on and some more distance between us. I can’t wait to keep building relationships with our participants and finding creative ways to serve more people good food with my fellow HIPsters!
Meals Program Coordinator