Friday, November 23, 2012


"Listen, I'm sorry.  I have to get off the phone now.  I want to be able to tell you more, but my ladies come first."  These are the words of Chef Vyky who works at the City of Refuge kitchen in Atlanta, Georgia.  And, while my interview with the chef was not long, I was thankful that she took time out of her busy day to talk with me.  Her customers are some very important people who desperately need Chef Vyky's time, attention, and talent.  The guests that Chef Vyky serves are temporary residents at Eden Village - an incredible facility that features 40 individual, hotel-style units for homeless women with children and 100 beds for single women.  Chef Vyky describes these ladies as, "...Women who have lost everything including thier pride.  It's not enough for someone to slap down some food in front of you.  you are already devastated."

With the Kitchen Staff - Photograph by Nick Burchell
Chef Vyky is a graduate of the 180 Kitchen, a fully operational culinary program that was set up to transform lives.  Chef Vyky shared with me that 25 years ago she was a drug user, but has been drug-free since that time.  Vyky worked in the home health field and eventually lost her job because of company downsizing.  This situation along with some family problems led her and her husband and grandson out of Detroit and into Atlanta.  One year ago today, they ended up at the City of Refuge where Vyky was able to enroll in the 180 Kitchen program.  In addition, the United Way helped them with housing by giving them the first and last month's rent along with a security deposit.  In this way, Vyky and her family were able to secure a place to live and get stabilized.  After receiving her culinary skills Chef Vyky gave back to the City of Refuge by serving as a staff member.

The 180 Kitchen is just one of the supportive programs and services that the City of Refuge offers.  Other services include primary medical and mental health treatment, job placement, transition into permanent housing, daycare/preschool, GED preparation, after-school tutoring for children, and case management.  In my opinion it is a stellar outfit that is truly working to accomplish its goal to "empower homeless women and children to regain control over their lives and to attain self-sufficiency." Chef Vyky confirmed this mission goal by telling me that everyone who makes their way to the City of Refuge is treated with respect, courtesy and dignity despite their circumstance. 

 Finally, I learned that Chef Vyky also faced the recent passing of her husband.  Imagine, under this duress she has tirelessly given her time and efforts to the ladies at Eden Village.

"Vyky, I wish you the best."   ~Walter Scheib

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Los Angeles Unified School District has the enormous responsibility of making 650,000 meals a day.  It’s obviously not a light task, especially when you consider that the school district has adopted a resolution to ensure that “students have access to nutritious and wholesome food that is locally sourced with sound environmental practices.”  That’s quite a mouthful, but when you consider that the LAUSD is committed to giving each one of their students a fighting chance to be successful, you can also see this effort as a great endeavor.

I had the privilege of being at the dinner where the “Good Food Procurement Resolution” was presented to parents, students and staff.  The resolution carries some pretty tight guidelines that are designed to help students get a leg up on being healthy and fight childhood obesity. The district became very concerned with the obesity epidemic as well as having a few students who died from Type II diabetes. David Binkle who is the current food services director summed it up nicely when he said the district sought to “get rid of the carnival food, replacing pizza, fried chicken and hot dogs with roasted turkey and chicken, mashed potatoes, fruits, vegetables and tossed salads.”  

If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area this morning (November 17, 2012),  you can go and enjoy the screening of the film “Weight of the Nation:  Children in Crisis”, food tasting, and kids activities. It’s a free event for the whole family. The address is 8501 Arleta Ave., Sun Valley, CA 91352