National Volunteer Appreciation Week is April 12-18. We’d like to take this opportunity – on the blog, with social media, in person and at our facilities – to thank the volunteers that help us serve our neighbors in need.

Eva Loomis has been a volunteer with the Foodbank since last fall and has really been making waves in our VT Fresh program! Her cooking demos inspire people to embrace cooking with healthy ingredients and she does an incredible job. The Foodbank is so grateful for all of her help. We’ll let her tell you the rest!

Volunteer Appreciation Week: Eva LoomisWhere are you from?

South Kingstown, Rhode Island

Where do you live?

Randolph Center, Vermont

Tell us more about yourself.

I’m an AmeriCorps VISTA serving at Vermont Technical College as their Community Food Systems Coordinator. I help manage the college’s Market Garden (we sell organically grown produce to the cafeteria here and at 3 other educational institutions in the state) and work on projects that involve food and the community. I’m interested in food access, security, and nutrition, and am curious about using foraged foods in these arenas. I like to play outside, spend time with friends and family, read, wander, dance to live music, sit and watch the world go by, and cook with plants.

As the Foodbank, you know we’re interested in food and eating! Please tell us about your favorite food, meal or recipe.

This time of year, I love roasted vegetables sprinkled generously with a random assortment of spices and herbs. I’m really looking forward to warmer weather to experiment with incorporating wild edibles into my cooking.

How long have you been a volunteer with us?

I started volunteering with the Foodbank’s VT Fresh program in October of 2014.

Describe the work that you do for the Vermont Foodbank.

Every other week, I lead cooking demonstrations at the Barre Food Shelf (located in the Capstone Community Action building). My goal is to demonstrate that cooking (and consuming!) produce can be really quick, simple, and tasty, so the recipes I use highlight one (or sometimes two) veggies and only a small number of basic ingredients that most people are likely to have at home – like oil or butter, salt, and pepper. The recipes don’t take much time or require special kitchen tools to prepare. I also make sure to use an item of produce that the food shelf has an abundance of so that people can bring it home with them.

I offer clients samples to try, talk with them about what they think of it, describe how I made the dish, trade suggestions on how to store, prep, and cook different veggies, hand out recipes and tips on how to prepare the produce, help identify available produce, etc. I also collect and record survey data and observations from the demos so the Foodbank can track the results. I’ve also been working on creating produce-centric recipes for the VT Fresh program to add to the program’s resource kits.

Why did you choose to volunteer with the Vermont Foodbank?

I chose to volunteer here because I want to help change the way people feel about produce, encourage awareness about healthy eating choices, and take some of the perceived intimidation away from preparing veggies – they’re really some of the easiest foods to prepare!

What have you learned through your experience here?

I’ve learned that 9am may be too early for some people to eat vegetables! Joking aside, I’ve really enjoyed getting to know some of my “regulars” and I look forward to seeing them come through the door so we can talk about what’s cooking that week. I’ve picked up some good recipes from them! I’ve been really fortunate that Capstone is also home to the Community Kitchen Academy (another Foodbank program), which uses rescued food to teach culinary skills to students free of charge. This is such an exciting program to me, and it’s been great learning more about it as my time there has gone on.

Was there ever anyone in your life who inspired you to give back or volunteer? And how did that have an impact on your life?

From a young age, my parents encouraged community service and a service ethic has become a strong part of me. I’ve done several positions with AmeriCorps (including my current VISTA position). It’s an awesome service program that has provided me with incredible opportunities – from building trails around the American West to writing flood recovery grants in post-Irene Waterbury. Among many things, it’s a great way to learn valuable skills, experience a new part of the country, and become good friends with some completely wonderful like-minded and passionate people. I like to joke that I can’t wait to get older so I can do SeniorCorps.

Describe a favorite memory of your time volunteering with us.

A few weeks ago I made honey glazed roasted carrots and a man who didn’t like carrots tried a sample. He was disgusted by them (and made the appropriate faces to go along with it), and as his friend helped him fill out the survey, he decided that he liked carrots even less after trying my recipe than when he walked in the door! It was a hilarious encounter, and I appreciated his honesty, but fortunately I’m pretty sure that was the only (and most dramatic) time someone was less likely to try a vegetable again!

The Vermont Foodbank relies on volunteers to accomplish our mission –  to gather and share quality food and nurture partnerships so that no one in Vermont will go hungry. Learn more about volunteer opportunities here.