When I first moved to Houston in 2015, my passion for connecting with
the community led me to a nonprofit called the HOPE Clinic, a Cities
Changing Diabetes partner providing care to the underserved, or
those who are isolated because English isn’t their first language. As
someone not from the U.S., I believe in the HOPE Clinic. And as a chef
and restauranteur, I felt that especially in this city where the
abundance of food may lead to high rates of diabetes and obesity, I
could help the HOPE Clinic in their health-focused mission. So with
the clinic, I developed Bite of
HOPE – a teaching kitchen aiming to make healthy food accessible
to Houstonians in need that is now a project under Cities Changing
Diabetes – Houston.
Through cooking classes and instruction given to community health
influencers like students, nurses, counselors, and my fellow
restauranteurs, Bite of HOPE helps people in Houston understand how
important food is to their health.
When COVID-19 hit, Bite of HOPE’s dedication to the underserved in
our community became more important than ever.
Like so many schools and workplaces that had to adapt during the
pandemic, Bite of HOPE went virtual. We expanded our offerings to
include online cooking classes for seniors, who may be isolated and
cooking for themselves for the first time in years. We
started a YouTube channel on which my 6-year-old niece and I
share tips for parents and kids cooking healthy meals at home, and
partnered with United Health for even more cooking
demonstrations on Facebook Live.
I’ve also felt a responsibility to help many of my fellow Houston
entrepreneurs, including minorities and immigrant restauranteurs, as
they scrambled for customers and their futures during closures and
shutdowns. Having run my own restaurants in Bolivia, I saw an
opportunity through Bite of HOPE to lend my expertise and help these
businesses face the financial challenges of the pandemic by guiding
them to adapt their menus with more cost-effective, yet healthier options.
We started this pilot program with a cohort of eight small
Latina-women-owned food businesses - like Sabor y Sazon’s, a
mother-daughter-owned Peruvian restaurant.