A Denver resident, student and Cooking Matters Colorado volunteer, Jasmine is familiar with not knowing when or where her next meal will be. At times, our volunteers and the families we serve are one in the same.
Throughout hardships in her life, Jasmine would have gone hungry without the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Similarly, many of the families we serve would not be able to feed their children without this program.
The impact SNAP and SNAP Education (SNAP-Ed) have on our supporters, as well as our participants, gives us further reason to protect these federal nutrition programs. Our own volunteers have shared the experience of food insecurity and the need to stretch limited food budgets.
This includes Jasmine, who sold her car in order to attend culinary school, and works a paid internship to afford the cost of living in Denver. Despite her busy schedule and strained resources, Jasmine started volunteering for Cooking Matters in February 2018. Her experience with food insecurity inspired her to help others realize the importance of nutrition education in stretching their food budgets.
When Jasmine was a child, her mother also balanced a busy schedule. Her mother worked full-time while finishing her bachelor’s degree, but still managed to teach Jasmine how to prepare healthy meals. Little did they know that cooking would later become Jasmine’s passion and career path.
As Jasmine was studying for her undergraduate degree, she began struggling with mental health issues – since then, she has experienced years of employment instability and food insecurity. She frequently moved in search of new employment, and after losing seasonal work at a ski resort, she experienced homelessness for a few months.
The first time she received food assistance was a huge relief. When nothing else in her world was reliable, she was at least able to eat. Thanks to the skills her mother taught her, Jasmine was able to stretch her small food assistance budget to prepare healthy meals and make it through the tough times.
Months later, Jasmine secured stable work and housing in Denver. She still struggles with mental health issues, but is supported by her therapy dog, Mandy. And Mandy was really the inspiration for Jasmine’s own diet changes.
When Mandy had kidney failure, Jasmine researched alternatives to dog food to improve Mandy’s health. She saw how affordable and effective it was, so decided to do the same for herself.
She researched all the medical benefits of different foods to help with her mental and physical health issues. She created a diet plan centered on the items she could purchase with her food assistance. Fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy proteins are key to balancing her health.
“I’ve noticed a huge change in my mental state. If I’m in a depressive state I can eat certain foods to help bring me out of it. It’s really nice to be able to leverage that with SNAP’s help.”
Jasmine and Mandy have climbed 16 fourteneers (a mountain with an elevation of at least 14,000 feet) together and are preparing for more this summer. Jasmine’s goal is to cook a meal on top of a fourteneer to celebrate her accomplishments and passion of cooking nutritious food.
Many parents and caregivers never learned how to prepare healthy meals as Jasmine did, and she wants to share her skills and knowledge about how cooking healthy foods can positively benefit their health and stretch their food budgets.
Food assistance programs provided sustenance when Jasmine was at her lowest, and are a part of managing her health issues. Jasmine, like many Coloradans, is able to live to her full potential with the support of these programs. Join us in standing up for food assistance and nutrition education programs such as SNAP and SNAP-Ed so every Coloradan can live their full potential.