Cooking up a Food Solution

Cooking up a Food Solution

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Cincinnati Cooks Catering Sous Chef Stacey
Parrish helps fight the food desert epidemic.

There is a silent epidemic brewing in Cincinnati that needs to be brought to the forefront. Right in our very backyards Cincinnati is the home to four designated food deserts: Roselawn, Avondale, Bond Hill and Clifton neighborhoods. Food desert is a term used to describe neighborhoods that have either no or limited access to fresh and healthy foods.


The food situation in Cincinnati has been an issue for a few years, and with recent closings of grocery stores this issue keeps growing bigger. Almost as quiet as the food deserts in the area so are the organizations that are lending a hand to help diminish such an epidemic.


Stacey Parrish is one person who is helping to fight this epidemic. Parrish is a sous chef for Cincinnati Cooks Catering, just one program that the Freestore Foodbank offers the community. For the last two and a half years Parrish has been a big part of an extension of the catering program called Cincinnati COOKS! Parrish puts her chef skills to work helping disadvantaged adults learn the ins and outs of the foodservice industry.


Parrish truly loves her job, but when she first started she admits, "I wasn’t aware of just how much these people and their stories can touch you. You can hear some hard stories here. Some of these students don’t even have homes to go to."


Some of the students that come through the program have hit rock bottom but want to turn their lives around. "To hear their stories and watch how they blossom through their time here is really inspiring. You just think, ‘wow’ and it really makes you want to be a better person just from watching these guys," Parrish says.


Over the course of a 10-week period, students learn invaluable teamwork and communication skills to work in the bustling atmosphere the food service industry can have. They also learn hands-on experience of knife skills; proper sanitation; and how to work the food line, follow recipes, decorate baked goods. Usually by the end of their training they are given a little free rein to put together their own creative dishes. At the completion of the program, students cook up a graduation buffet where they are honored and given a knife set along with a chef jacket and pants as well as a polished resume they can use to land a job.


The food that is prepared each day by these culinary students is delivered to the 19 Kids Cafes in Greater Cincinnati. Kids Cafe is a free after-school program that provides kids with a hot meal who otherwise may not have a hot meal available to them outside of school.


You can help just by using Cincinnati Cooks Catering to cater your next event, whether it’s a dinner party, family dinner, corporate event or birthday party. The money that is spent on catered events helps fund the Cincinnati COOKS! free training program, which in turn, provides hot healthy meals for adults and children throughout the city who otherwise would go without.


For more information on the programs or to book catering service, visit