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Templeton-based Wellness Kitchen and Resource Center supports healing through food education

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When Nancy Walker went to culinary school in Phoenix, it wasn't what she thought it was going to be. Every dish had salt on the ingredient list. Every time she finished a dish, she would take it to her chef instructor for review, and he would say it needed more salt.

"I finally asked him, 'At what point do you stop adding salt and start adding spices, herbs, and other things?' It can't just be from this big bin of white, processed, every-granular-is-exactly-the-same salt," Walker said.

HEALING THROUGH THE KITCHEN Volunteers work daily at The Wellness Kitchen and Resource Center to learn about and prepare healthy foods. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WELLNESS KITCHEN AND RESOURCE CENTER
  • Photo Courtesy Of The Wellness Kitchen And Resource Center
  • HEALING THROUGH THE KITCHEN Volunteers work daily at The Wellness Kitchen and Resource Center to learn about and prepare healthy foods.

She learned that her culinary education was preparing her to sell a plate at a restaurant, and customers want salt. That wasn't her true passion.

Walker found her passion at Bauman College, which teaches culinary arts but specializes in holistic nutrition.

"It was looking at food with a whole new set of eyes. The colors, taste, and even as far as the famer's hands that grew this with so much passion in them and the families that helped with that," she said.

That was the first part of her inspiration to create the Wellness Kitchen and Resource Center in 2010 in Templeton. The second was the perseverance her mother had shown to change her dieting habits after losing family members to cancer and battling cancer herself two times.

The nonprofit offers hands-on wellness and therapeutic cooking classes, health and nutritional lectures, demonstrations, and a meals program. Health professionals, guest chefs, nutritional educators, organic ranchers, and farmers lead all of the programs.

Although Walker is still passionate about the nonprofit she founded, she is stepping out of her role as executive director to make way for Gina Grieb, who Walker said will take the kitchen to the next level.

"It needs to go to the next level whether it's opening a second one, having a larger kitchen, or distributing to another area. So the decision to bring on an executive director that could help us achieve that was the goal, and boy did we find someone," Walker said.

Walker felt that the organization had everything in place to take the next steps, so she decided to get back into working in the kitchen.

The kitchen offers meals that are specialized to heal those with health issues. About 40 to 50 volunteers (ranging from teens to mature adults) prepare a variety of foods each week that take into consideration low sodium, iodine free, heart healthy, food allergies, or digestive issues in the recipes. All of the meals are dairy and gluten free.

Walker describes it as a good way for people to learn the healthy meals they can make for an ill family member or a neighbor.

"Everybody wants to give to somebody that is not well. So we're here to guide them on not just giving the great big lasagnas, the big meatloaf, but rather smaller portions and variety," she said.

Using local ingredients, volunteers begin their day at 5:30 a.m. to prep and chop the ingredients per instruction from the chef. Cooks come in next and cook the meals that will either be picked up in Templeton or delivered throughout San Luis Obispo County. There are also pickup locations in San Luis Obispo and Cambria.

Meals include dishes like baked apple cinnamon oatmeal with fruit compote or beef bone broth.

To learn more about the Wellness Kitchen and Resource Center or its prepared foods, visit thewkrc.org.

Fast facts

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Staff Writer Karen Garcia wrote this week's Strokes and Plugs. Send tidbits to kgarcia@newtimesslo.com.

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