At MDS in Marianna, Florida, volunteers can actually help out in more ways than just constructing houses. The kitchen is in need of hands just like the job site is, and is equally as labor intensive. Where those on the job site eat breakfast and dinner back at the base camp, it is the duty of the kitchen to plan and prepare meals for breakfast and dinner. It is important to make sure those meals are delicious and packed full of nutrients to keep the workers strong and at peak performance!
The schedule in the kitchen is a little different from the day to day schedule. First, you wake up earlier than the rest of the volunteer group to help prepare breakfast and lunch. Typically eggs and oatmeal are popular choices for breakfast, and sandwiches are always the main component for lunches. After the volunteers leave to their work sites, the kitchen aids must help to clean up. Typically this involves cleaning and wiping down tables as well as washing the dishes, but restocking snack tables and the sandwich bar is part of the job too!
Once everything is clean, then there is a little bit of time to brainstorm for ideas on what to make for dinner. This sounds simple, but when making decisions for twenty other people it can be rather intimidating! Using leftovers from other dinners or breakfasts is always encouraged. You also have to consider people with allergies and other food restrictions, so a variety of options for dinner should be considered too.
The variety of foods for dinner is primarily volunteer driven here at Marianna, meaning that food selection is decided by the short term volunteers and advised by the longer term volunteers. For example, the longer term volunteers would advise shorter term volunteers on what leftovers there may be, or what sorts of foods have special pricing at the local grocery store. The shorter term volunteers would then take that information and decide upon something that would involve taking advantage of the advice given. This part can be a little difficult, because only a few volunteers must be representatives for the rest of the volunteer group! For example, I was a little worried when it was my turn to make food for the other volunteers, but eventually my partner and myself brainstormed ideas and decided on making homemade pizzas. We made a variety of popular pizzas, including meat lovers, a hawaiian, a vegetable, and a three cheese pizza. The last pizza was something of an experiment. I decided to take some inspiration from Mexican culture, and take Mexican foods and put them into a pizza.
The Mexican pizza consisted of a custom red sauce consisting of 14 different spices followed by mozzarella cheese and pinto beans. Lettuce and tomatoes were placed on top after baking the pizza. After the chaos of serving the pizzas and other optional toppings to the volunteers, I discovered that the experimental Mexican pizza was actually very successful because there were no leftovers after that dinner. The bar was set high that night after all the work that went into making the food.
The responsibility of helping in the kitchen will cycle between volunteers on a daily basis, so that no one volunteer is constantly in the kitchen, unless otherwise specified of course. If the group of short term volunteers is small enough, then maybe everyone will be able to help in the kitchen, maybe even more than once.
Written by: Juan Flores