Bite of Brainfood Blog

Learning In the Kitchen: Reflections from our YSEALI Fellow

Hi, my name is Kimsorn Ngam, and I am coming to Brainfood from Cambodia, through Young South East Asia Leadership Initiative (YESEALI) program. At first, reading about my work placement at Brainfood, I was almost disappointed with American Councils because I applied for NGO who I can improve my skills with the background of Research and Evaluation. Why did they place me in a kitchen place?

But, when I arrived for my first day, I had a warm welcome from Ms. Carina Gervacio and four other staff members and I felt a bit better. Later on, I was oriented with the schedule, and then I felt more confidence in joining the activities. One week later at Brainfood, I have learnt a lot about programs activities and program’s goals, as I worked with Brainfood’s staff and students.

Welcome, Kimsorn!

“Sometimes life is like making cooking -- it’s not just about getting things together at the beginning or eating sweets at the end. It’s about adding all the ingredients along the way.” 


As we turn our sights towards May and the end of a year-long kitchen journey for so many Brainfood students, we’re also excited to welcome our new YSEALI (Youth Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative) fellow, Kimsorn Ngam.


Like our past fellow, Rex, Kimsorn is with us for just a short month. In Cambodia, he directs evaluations and assessments for This Life Cambodia. At Brainfood, he’ll get to spend time learning how to navigate the Youth Garden, packing some Old Bay kale chips with Homegrown, and seeing Kitchen All Stars class compete in the Chef’s Challenge Graduation.

Highlights of International Unit at Kitchen All Stars

 Blog post written by Janeya Lee, DC Career Connect Intern

For the past two weeks in Kitchen All Stars we have been learning and making about international foods. We have been to Jamaica, Thailand, Mexico, China, and Italy. The food was great. 

For Jamaica Day we had Coco Bread and Beef Patties (not the frozen ones!). I was happy because everyone was very into the recipes and having fun. Thailand Day was such a spicy day. I enjoyed all the recipes. For Mexico Day we had sopes and elote. The ingredients in some foods definitely made me think, “What is that? Why does that have to go in there?” My group expectation for that day was to try new things, which I did, and I actualy really liked them! The elote is roasted corn on the cob with mayonnaise and seasoning such as lime, chili powder, and cotjia cheese on it. The sopes are kind of like tortillas but you can put things in them. We also made tres leches for dessert. The recipes turned out great that day.

For China Day we had beef and broccoli and potstickers. These recipes were great and the students were happy about the recipes. The beef and broccoli was not your regular carry out beef and broccoli! The potstickers were great and the sauce that was with it was too. For Italy Day we made chicken parmesan, orange chocolate biscotti and pumpkin and goat cheese ravioli with sage butter sauce. 

Local Program, Big World

Local Program:

When you hear the term food system, what do you think of? How produce is grown? Food being packaged on an assembly line? Vegetables being transported to your local grocery store? Thanks to our garden manager Lyssa’s food systems class a few weeks back, I now consider myself a budding expert on (read: inexperienced but interested in) food system analysis. For instance, did you know that there is not one, but actually threemain food systems? At Brainfood, I feel we often represent the local food system. In this type of food system, food comes directly from farmers  o you - the consumer. It might come from a CSA or a local farmers market and probably only travels for a few hours from where it’s grown to your plate.

How is Brainfood part of our local food system?

Community MVPs Coating Ceremony 2016 !!!!!

Two weeks ago the Community MVP students were celebrated during the annual MVPs Coating Ceremony.  “What is Coating Ceremony?” you ask. It is a way to acknowledge the amount of time the students put into classes and workshops. During Coating Ceremony, MVP students who have completed 70 or more community service hours through Community MVPs receive their very own chef coats. Along with receiving chef coats, the celebration gives the students a chance to show off their cooking skills by cooking all the food for the ceremony. The students are encouraged to invite family and friends to the ceremony so that they can join in on the fun, and eat the delicious homemade food.
I had no idea what Coating Ceremony was when I first started interning at Brainfood. I figured there would be a graduation, but I never thought there would be more than that. Once they explained to me the reason behind the Coating Ceremony, I started to understand its significance. Graduation is about celebrating the end of the program, while Coating Ceremony is about showing our appreciation of the students and all the hard work they have put into Community MVPs.

A-Z Snapshot of March at Brainfood

May this list entice your curiosity about Brainfood happenings, broaden your awareness of the scope of our organization's work, and get you excited about what's next in the coming months!

Brainfood All-Stars Food Desert Workshop: The Bad, The Worse, and the Ugly

Guest Blogger Myla Clark, Community MVPs Senior!

My name is Myla Clark and I am a current Brainfood MVP participant and in the past  have done Brainfood All-Stars and Brainfood Box Project. I am current senior at School Without Walls (the number one school in DC) and as a graduation requirement at my school is a year long Senior Project on a subject I got tot select. I chose to do although there are negative outcomes that come from food deserts, these environments benefit  some people of the farming, fast-food, medical and pharmaceutical industries. I had to conduct a interview with an expert on my topic, write a 15-page research paper, and create a product that connects with the paper. Thankfully, my mentor and Brainfood MVP coordinator, Aimee, was able to help me work with Brainfood to create a product!

Springing Forward

While it’s been a little grey and dreary outside these past few days, those of us at Brainfood can definitely tell that spring is on its way! Here are a few reasons we know this exciting season is upon us:

1. Seedling Alley is up and running! Lyssa, our masterful garden manager, has a whole plan for this planting season, which she’s mapped out meticulously with all kinds of maps and charts. Over the past few weeks, JaNeya, our DC Career Connections Intern at our Chinatown site, and I have helped Lyssa with planting hundreds of little seeds in trays at our Mount Vernon site. As these seedlings have been warmed and watered in their corner of our kitchen, they’ve really sprouted and grown! We’re all very excited about the prospect of harvesting broccoli, cauliflower, onions, parsley, and much much more in just a few months.


My Introduction to Brainfood

     Hi! My name is JaNeya Lee and I have recently joined Brainfood as an intern through DC Career Connect, a youth employment program through DC Department of Employment Services. When I first heard of Brainfood I thought that I was going to be learning how to cook, but Brainfood is so much more than that. When I was interviewed I was asked many questions that had me think about what I would do if I worked at Brainfood, as well as informed me of what the job was about and what I would be doing. When I went to orientation I did not know what to expect, but with the information I had, I understood that Brainfood was more than simply giving youth somewhere to go after school or giving them community service hours. In addition to Brainfood after school programs, there is also Brainfood Homegrown, a youth-led food venture that makes and sells their own products. Brainfood also has a youth garden, which is something that I have never had experience with. I'm excited that I get to learn how it works!

      My first day at Brainfood was great. I met other people that worked at Brainfood and they explained their jobs/roles. I also spent two hours with Homegrown. We made homemade nacho cheese seasoning to go on popcorn and I also tried some of their other products. Next I attended my first Kitchen All Stars class, and even though there were not many students, I got the sense of what I  was going to do in those classes. I learned the students’ names that were there and the Weekly Classroom Assistants (WCAs). 


A broke college senior learns the importance of a food budget

As a senior in college at UMD you would think I might have a slight handle on how to be budget conscious when it comes to food and grocery shopping, but unfortunately that is not totally true. When I lived at home I would go to the grocery store with my mom, but I never really paid attention to the prices or good deals because I was too busy picking out the food that I wanted.  Once I started college I had a meal plan which allowed me to get food from the dining halls on campus, so I still was not buying food from the grocery store. So when I finally moved to an off campus apartment and started going grocery shopping I didn’t really know how to shop on a budget. Sure I would try and buy the cheaper brands, but that was the extent of my frugal ways. In addition to my cluelessness in regards to budget, I also was not much of a cook. I could make the standard college fare; pasta, quesadillas, salads, etc., but other than the basics I was a work in progress. So when I started working at Brainfood I had a lot to learn about food budgeting and cooking.

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