Once I realized that I was no longer averse to working on hunger relief and food and nutrition issues, I reached out to an old flame: Cooking Matters, the direct service arm of Share Our Strength, one of the nation's most successful hunger relief organizations, and one with a very active Boston-based chapter. More than twenty years ago, I first got involved with Cooking Matters as a volunteer and member of the local advisory board. In those days, local chefs -- some of whom have gone on to open multiple restaurants, write books, and appear on TV -- lined up to teach healthy cooking and nutrition classes to adults at community agencies, and to kids in schools. The six-week program also relied on volunteer nutritionists and classroom assistants. A good time was had by all, and everyone had fun adapting the national curriculum to local ethnic and culinary preferences.
On the web site, I found the name and email address of the woman who coordinates volunteer opportunities; I sent her a note describing briefly my own history with Cooking Matters, and my interest in learning more about the program's current needs. We met over coffee and pastry at a local bakery. She brought me up to date on how the program has grown (and become, as she described it, more "corporate") in the past two decades, and confirmed that, like many other nonprofits, they have been swamped with inquiries about volunteer opportunities since the beginning of the year. Their primary need is for volunteers to work in the classrooms, as assistants or cooking instructors (the program no longer relies solely on professional chefs, but also welcomes talented and confident amateur teachers). Although I taught cooking classes for years, I'm not sure that's how I want to spend my time now, and we shared a few other ideas. "I'm really impressed that you're so intentional about how you approach your volunteer work," she commented.
Being intentional doesn't mean that you always find what you're seeking. More often, it means that you recognize when something is not a good fit, or not a fit right now. As much as I love the Cooking Matters program, it doesn't seem to be quite what I'm looking for as I build this volunteering life. However, I've learned to never say never.