HIGH POINT — The nonprofit Homegrown Heroes is preparing to open a teaching kitchen that will allow a large expansion of a program alongside the medical community to promote community education about healthy cooking and eating.
Homegrown Heroes Executive Director Jonathan Seelig initially worked with YWCA High Point’s teaching kitchen to host the Kitchenology program, but the new kitchen will allow the program to expand, said Megan Oglesby, executive director of the Earl and Kathryn Congdon Family Foundation, which provided a $100,000 grant to open the kitchen.
“The expansion of the Kitchenology program with its establishment of the Kitchenology teaching kitchen will allow Homegrown Heroes to increase its impact in the community by going from serving 500 families to upwards of 10,000 families, provide culinary medicine training for 1,500 college-level students from at least four universities, and provide food education to a minimum of 500 kindergarten through eighth-grade students from three High Point public schools,” Oglesby said.
Seelig has been working with chefs and university students to get the former Cozy Cannoli bakery site at 2107 Kirkwood St. ready for a soft opening of the Kitchenology teaching kitchen on Saturday, April 23. Homegrown Heroes works to alleviate food insecurity by creating neighborhood food systems and programs through schools and community centers.
The kitchen will offer cooking classes, nutritious foods, culinary medicine training for dietetic and medical students and food boxes to provide to food-insecure families who participate in its food literacy programs.
In addition to the Congdon Family Foundation’s grant, Hometown Heroes has received a $4,000 grant from the Greater High Point Food Alliance to support teaching nutrition and cooking.
Seelig envisions offering open cooking classes for the public on some days of the week and working closely with local health care providers and university students on other days. Homegrown Heroes is reaching out to explore partnering with High Point University and other local colleges and universities, including Guilford Technical Community College, UNCG and Wake Forest University, Seeling said
“Our goal in the long-term is to work with medical doctors from the Congdon cardiovascular unit at the High Point Medical Center,” Seelig said. “We’ll potentially have a medical professional come in to talk about aspects of heart health, and we’ll pair that up with heart-healthy recipes.”
Seelig enlisted the help of several of his classmates in UNC Greensboro’s dietetics program.
As executive chef of the Kitchenology teaching kitchen, Ross Bolen, Seelig’s brother-in-law, is combining his years of experience as a chef for hotels and restaurants with nine years of work as a registered nurse. As an RNe, Bolen saw the results of many patients’ poor food choices on their health.
“There is a way to teach people how to eat healthy food that tastes good, and we’re going to prove it,” Bolen said.
Seeling said he expects the program to have long-term success addressing food and related health care issues, including health care facilities eventually seeing fewer chronic cases of diabetes, hypertension and high blood pressure.
“A lot of times people hear about food insecurity and wonder how we are going to resolve the issue. Rather than just handing food out, food education is truly the resolving of this matter,” he said. “I believe that’s going to be the game-changer, moving forward with everything from food insecurity to health care issues.”