JAMS is a NYC Department of Homeless Services shelter providing beds to 200 men with mental illness who are experiencing homelessness. The site offers multiple social services to its residents, including housing case management, programming to address mental health and substance abuse issues, and other social activities. Residents can remain at the shelter until they are placed into permanent housing.
The class began with all the residents and staff in attendance sharing their favorite fruits and vegetables and discussing the health benefits of different types of fruits and vegetables. “BronxWorks is committed to food justice for our neighbors,” said Rachel Gill, Director of Community Health Programs at BronxWorks. “Part of addressing food insecurity is providing nutrition education to our neighbors. We wanted the men taking this class to learn not only about the health benefits of vegetables but how to incorporate them into meals that are easy and inexpensive to cook.”
Rachel and her staff, including some SYEP interns, taught the JAMS residents how to make a chicken, broccoli, and pepper stir-fry. The dish incorporated sliced chicken breast as well as fresh broccoli, onion, and bell pepper. In preparing and cooking the dish, Rachel’s staff gave tips on food safety and how to prepare and safely cook all the ingredients.
Ernest J., a resident preparing to move into permanent housing soon, is a former chef. He really appreciated the class, saying, “There’s a lot to it. They’re teaching us how to be able to prepare a meal for ourselves once we’re home. I also appreciate them teaching us important food safety techniques like not leaving chicken on the counter all day. A lot of us didn’t know that sort of thing growing up.”
Like Ernest, all the men in the class were getting ready to move out of the shelter and into permanent housing within the next couple months. Joshua R., another shelter resident planning to move into his own apartment soon, was grateful for the class. “I liked learning how you can use parts from the broccoli that we cut off and use it to make soups,” he said. “This class will definitely help me when I move out.”
For taking part in this class, each of the men will receive a set of pots and pans and a bag of groceries to bring with them to their new housing. The grocery bag will contain all of the items that were used in the recipe.
“It’s good that y’all are doing this,” said another resident. “This is a huge help.”