Participant to Volunteer: John Miller

John Miller worked for over 20 years as a chef.  He spent time with organizations such as Sodexo, and prepared meals for students at Madonna University.  He loved his work and his field, and he was good at his job.

In his 60s, John was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure.  Untreated too long, he began struggling with weakness, numbness, and pain in his hands and feet.  These symptoms of neuropathy, caused by diabetes, made it impossible to continue in the profession he loves.  At 62, John retired from his field and devoted himself to his family, helping his daughter raise his grandson.

John’s doctors counseled him about his conditions.  They offered education and literature to support him with his new lifestyle changes.  John was motivated, but change can be difficult.  He looked for the tools and techniques to make healthy affordable meals for himself and his family.

Luckily, John’s health center had a partnership with Cooking Matters at the Store.  On a very fixed income, John was eligible for the program.  John’s doctor was optimistic the program would offer him great, actionable information to help manage his diagnoses.  She explained that John and other patients from the facility would meet to participate with a grocery store tour, led by a Cooking Matters Coordinator from Gleaners Community Food Bank.  They would discuss tips and techniques to help John stretch his food dollars in the most nutritious way possible.  John agreed to attend.

 John was a smart, pleasant, and enthusiastic participant.  He arrived early at the store, and took the time to read ahead in his Cooking Matters at the Store guide.  He was pleased to see so much great information, and even more pleased it contained a section with delicious, healthy, and affordable recipes.

 As the group navigated the store, they discussed topics such as:

– My Plate

– Unit prices

– The benefits of fresh, frozen, and canned fruits and vegetables

– Buying in season

– reading food labels and the ingredients list

– Low fat dairy

– Whole grains

– Lean protein

John engaged in group discussions, and enjoyed the hands-on approach to learning.  He had a great experience, and talked at length with his Coordinator from Gleaners after the tour.  He talked about how much he enjoyed his Cooking Matters experience, and also about his diagnoses, and his time as a chef.

John’s Coordinator explained that Cooking Matters also offers 6 week series.  In these series, participants learn basic principles of good nutrition, along with basic culinary skills to make the new nutrition goals even more attainable.  They practice each week, by making a healthy recipe that showcases the week’s nutrition messages.  In classes where adults are present, participants receive groceries to practice new skills, and make new recipes for family members.

John’s Coordinator explained that each Cooking Matters class recruits three volunteers for each 6 week series; one each culinary instructor, nutrition instructor, and classroom assistant.  John perked up.  He asked if he could help.

John attended New Volunteer Orientation and Training, and began his first class.  He volunteered as a culinary instructor with a class of teen parents.  He enjoyed helping participants build life skills, and coaching them as they made healthy meals they really enjoyed.  Participants responded to his pleasant, gregarious approach to sharing information.  The Course Coordinators John worked with appreciated his ability to convey information, connect with Participants, and share his experience. 

Gleaners Coordinators were also thankful for John’s very sincere enthusiasm to help.  As John’s first class ended, he quickly identified another that fit his schedule.  He realized that his three-hour commitment to class was very manageable, and it did not aggravate his neuropathy.  He looked across the schedule of volunteers needed, and identified four Cooking Matters classes that did not conflict with one another, or his other commitments.  He also agreed to assist with New Volunteer Orientation and Training, so he could share his enthusiasm for Cooking Matters with New Volunteers.

Cooking Matters of Southeast Michigan, at Gleaners Community Food Bank is very lucky to have John Miller’s help.  The program is also proud to call him a Cooking Matters at the Store Graduate.