I recently attended the Connecticut Community Health Network Foundation's conference, "Why Cooking Matters," at the beautiful west campus of Yale University in Orange, CT. The event was devoted to connecting people of like-mind who wish to combat the double-edged sword of hunger and obesity in our state. Even though Connecticut is considered the wealthiest state in the nation, there are still children and families here who can't get enough of the right food on a daily basis. This conference provided a starting point for getting active.
The conference began with opening remarks from Rep. Rosa DeLauro who shared her experience of working on programs that provide a safety net for our state's, as well as this country's, poorest residents. She discussed the results of the "National Soda Summit" recently held in NYC where health experts, officials, and activists gathered to address the growing concern about "liquid candy" being a conributing factor to health-related problems such as obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. She closed by imploring those of us in attendance to make a difference in our communities: "Inaction is not acceptable; inaction is irresponsible." You can find the entirety of her speech here.
Practical workshops followed the keynote with such topics as starting Neighborhood Cooking Clubs, where people come together to teach others how to cook healthfully; Food Quality Over Quantity; and food policy advocacy. I attended a "healthful" cooking demonstration with Chef Ron DeSantis of the Yale Dining Services. He presented recipes for Chorizo and White Bean Soup, Stuffed Mushrooms with Sausage and Spinach, and White Bean Salad. While I enjoyed the aromas and the lively presentation, I left a little disappointed that I couldn't sample any of the recipes (even the bean salad had chicken stock in it!). Perhaps this is something that should be addressed in the future for those of us who do not (or cannot afford to) eat animal products. [Don't worry - I made note of this on the evaluation form!]
Ultimately, this conference was about empowerment. According to Marlene Schwartz of the Yale Rudd Center, "the idea is still very much just to get as much food out there as possible." Indeed, we all need to do what we can to ensure no kid goes hungry.