Why I Volunteer
Cooking Matters is the only food skills education program in Colorado that Alyssa Thomas could find, so after an internet search for volunteer opportunities, she quickly signed up. Alyssa is a graduate student studying dietetics and public health and has been volunteering with Cooking Matters Colorado for over a year as a Nutrition Instructor.
“My favorite thing about Cooking Matters is the excitement and awareness that comes across participants’ faces when something clicks for them and they are empowered and realize they can do something to help their children and families’ health. It’s encouraging for me.”
As a child, Alyssa struggled to maintain a healthy diet. She was able to lose weight and get healthy through discovering healthy food and nutrition. Her parents did as much as possible to teach her, but it was in college that Alyssa was able to “take charge in the kitchen” and learn how to prepare healthy meals. She claims, “Once I saw the power that cooking and nutrition have, that’s when I got the self-efficacy to cook for myself.”
Alyssa finished her undergraduate degree in California. One class that stood out and eventually led her to volunteer for Cooking Matters was about child health disparities. She was shocked by how many disparities exist in our country and how many start before or at childbirth, and decided to pursue a disease prevention route rather than a medical degree.
Alyssa’s first job was at a Public Health Consulting Firm, where she was excited by the introduction of prevention projects. She realized that health nutrition was what she truly wanted to do, so she returned to her original passion, and to her home state of Colorado.
Her firsthand experience observing how challenging it is for parents to cook healthy and teach their children about healthy choices led her to find her career. Her volunteer work with Cooking Matters has only reaffirmed her passion for nutrition education.
Alyssa explains, “(Volunteering for Cooking Matters,) you get to interact with a lot of excited and willing participants. There is no one in class who isn’t thankful and so grateful for you being there. They are so willing and ready to learn. I’ve learned so much from the experience too. Hearing families’ stories has encouraged me to keep going and become a dietitian.”