I love food—I always have and always will. I talk about it more than I should. It was the topic of my college essay, I have dedicated Spoon University articles to it. This love of mine has prospered from a young age. Now, as I go through a service-learning college course, I am able to use my love for food to help a non-profit organization in Boston.

At Northeastern University, I am taking an english class where, as a requirement for the course, we volunteer 3-6 hours per week per semester at said-place. I was paired with Round Table Servants, a charitable organization focused on helping and supporting adolescents in the South Boston area through their art, athletic, and after-school programs. The main driving point behind all of this is the absence of drugs and alcohol.

Marisa Palace

George Benner, the founder and backbone of the entire organization, couldn't wait to have me and two other peers from my writing class at the after school program each Wednesday afternoon. The program runs 3:30-5:30 Monday through Friday and serves as a place for kids in the community to do homework, socialize with friends, and grab a snack. George wants to promote balanced diets, something many of the students of Round Table lack in their communities. Our duties as volunteers are to help prepare the food, assist in any homework help, and talk with the students.

As an avid documentary watcher: everything from Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead to Fed Up, I know too well the dangers of childhood obesity and the increased rates of obesity in cities just like South Boston. With experience of cooking with my mom, meal-prep, working in a catering kitchen, and a genuine love for making new dishes, I was excited to make food for the students. Round Table Servants provides the students with nutritious salads and sandwiches.

I was brought up on fresh fruits and vegetables and home-cooked meals. Eating the broccoli on my plate was never a chore. In order to make the students just as excited as I am about healthy food, I understood they needed to learn more about it by handling it directly. The best way to do this was by encouraging them to help make the snacks we were planning to serve them.

I knew it would be hard to engage a bunch of teens, but I also knew cookies could be just the trick to gain their interest. Our team of three decided upon a pumpkin chocolate chip recipe, something that sounds ordinary, but is filled with unexpected substitutes. Plus, it fit perfectly with the season. This recipe featured canned pumpkin and unsweetened apple sauce. The low-fat, low-sugar recipe was simple but provided clear steps for the students to follow.

Marisa Palace

I was in charge of managing the students, making sure they were engaged and properly followed instructions. My own peers acted as my assistants: grabbing the flour, cleaning the measuring cup in between the apple sauce and sugar, and putting the cookies in the oven. The students got to measure, add, and stir the ingredients. Following instructions step by step is a life skill, and the recipe sheets we provided were crucial to the success. They also got to take home the recipe sheets as a way to make the cookies at home.

All of the students waited patiently for the cookies to come out of the oven. By the time they had cooled off, all of the students had gathered around, waiting for the cookies.

Marisa Palace

The Mission

In our society, there are many deep, systemic problems, and solving these issues goes beyond making cookies. However, if we accept defeat, we will get nowhere. As members of our local communities, we must actively seek solutions. There are so many resources, organizations, and partners eager to accept our help. Whether you participate in a service-learning class or find an organization, you will quickly realize you can make a difference.

If you are interested in helping to make a difference at Round Table, check out their website and talk to George Benner, the wonderful man behind the success of many young adults. Round Table is merely one place making a difference. Local Key Club chapters, the YMCA, and your school's campus are great resources to find out new opportunities and ways to help the community.