Gabriel's Place seeks grant support for Avondale community health initiatives


Gabriel’s Place recently applied for a $25,000 grant from Convergys in order to further its community health initiatives in Avondale. Convergys' Corporate Social Responsibility program centers around issues that impact the community, such as workforce development and skills training, health and wellness, housing, transportation, financial literacy, child care and food security.

"We were introduced to Gabriel's Place during our United Way Service Day," says Karen Ryan, Convergys' director of government and community affairs. "We admired their commitment to not only feeding their neighbors but also their desire to educate and provide for others."

Avondale is considered a food desert, which means that there is no fresh food retailer or grocery store in the neighborhood. Instead, there are lots of fast food restaurants, corner stores and mini-marts. Residents in food deserts generally have poor health outcomes, including obesity, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease and preterm births.
 
Gabriel’s Place served over 8,000 plated meals in 2014 through its Share a Meal program. On Tuesdays, the community comes together for a donation-based, restaurant-style meal designed by a chef and prepared at Gabriel’s Place using fresh ingredients. Volunteer nurses are also on hand to perform health screenings during the meal.
 
There’s also a Thanksgiving Share a Meal event called ThankFALL, which served over 250 people in 2014. The meal is locally sourced and focuses on food and health education.
 
Share a Meal is designed to help start conversations about food, health and heritage. It helps people make healthier choices, and facilitates skills-based learning in the kitchen so Avondale residents can learn to cook and share skills while preparing a weekly meal together. Yes, Gabriel’s Place is always looking for volunteers to help prepare and serve at Share a Meal events.
 
Gabriel’s Place also hosts a weekly farmers market on Thursdays at 4-6 p.m. The majority of the fresh produce sold at the market is grown in the organization’s garden or provided by Pic’s Produce and ranges from $.25 to $2. The farmers market is the only fresh food retailer currently in Avondale.
 
In conjunction with the farmers market, there are plans to offer interactive cooking demonstrations featuring seasonal ingredients. Residents will have the chance to cook alongside a chef, taste-test snacks and take recipes home.
 
Gabriel’s Place also offers two cooking classes. The first is the Jr. Chef Institute, a free eight-week summer culinary education program that's open to high school students who have a passion for food or an interest in pursuing a career in the culinary arts. The program creates a pipeline to the Midwest Culinary Institute at Cincinnati State and helps prepare kids for jobs in the food industry.

The other cooking class, which is still in the works, will be an eight-week skills-based class that features a basic cooking curriculum designed by Gabriel’s Place. This class will not only teaches the basics but also designed to focus on different aspects of cooking, including healthy meals and meals on a budget.
 
There are also plans to partner with the Hirsch Recreation Center to host dinner theater vignettes with neighborhood performers to showcase Avondale's talent as well as connect residents in a new way.
 

Read more articles by Caitlin Koenig.

Caitlin Koenig is a Cincinnati transplant and 2012 grad of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri. She's the department editor for Soapbox Media and currently lives in Northside with her husband, Andrew, and their three furry children. Follow Caitlin on Twitter at @caite_13.  
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