Olivewood Gardens & the Kitchenistas of National City

Cooking for Salud®, a program of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center, is an 8-week bilingual English and Spanish nutrition education program that teaches participants how to make healthy changes at home. The program provides participants with tools to change their cooking and eating habits. 

Upon graduation of the Cooking for Salud® program, new Kitchenistas make a commitment to being leaders in their families and community. Many Kitchenistas come from communities that have been impacted by decades of systemic and institutionalized racism, disinvestment, and resulting social inequities. Through the Kitchenistas program, Olivewood strives to address health and environmental equity, focusing on education, access, and advocacy to improve the local food system, inspire community leadership, and bring resources to National City and San Diego’s South Bay region. Kitchenistas are changemakers. They are dedicated to leading and supporting local efforts, and they understand the needs and desires of the local community intimately from lived and observed experiences. 

Kitchenistas share their skills and knowledge of nutrition and healthy cooking through presentations and food demos at local schools, community centers, and events. They have advocated for healthy food policy and healthy food business development in National City, and have provided input to inform the creation of new programs and visions that reflect the needs and desires of the community. Kitchenistas are a diverse group of multilingual, multi-national community members that include small business entrepreneurs and co-op owners, health advocates and leaders, school wellness champions, documentary film protagonists, and elected officials. 

The Kitchenistas represent and demonstrate what it means to be a thriving community – to truly support one another and seek collective growth, success, and wellness. Diversity is celebrated among the Kitchenistas, and there is a shared culture of advocating for a better and healthy community.

The Kitchenistas are always in the process of growing, both personally and professionally. Much of the growth is inspired by their peers who generously share their talents and skills with one another, as well as their learnings from programs. 

Olivewood’s vision is for each Kitchenista to reach their highest expectations personally and professionally, and to be active citizens and leaders within the community. The staff are endlessly inspired by the Kitchenistas along with all of the incredible people who make up their community, and embody resilience, generosity, dedication, ingenuity, creativity, and love.

Claire Groebner is the Director of Development at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center. She has a B.A. in Sociology – Social Inequalities and Spanish Literature from UC San Diego. Claire’s love for people, nature, and food inspired her to get involved in the food justice and farm-to-table movements, and eventually, with Olivewood Gardens.

Jacqueline Ante is the Coordinator of Volunteers and Outreach at Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center. Jacqueline was introduced to Olivewood Gardens through the Cooking for Salud program, later graduating into the 10th generation of the program. Jacqueline joined Olivewood after years as a volunteer, now keeping volunteerss and interns engaged in the many programs Olivewood offers.

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