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What’s Cooking?

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“What’s cooking?” At Unity House, the answer is much more than delicious meals.

As part of our efforts to boost the independent living skills of residents, Cazenovia Recovery Systems presents opportunities to learn about nutrition and meal preparation. Recently, Unity House featured a nutritionist from the Food Bank of WNY who provided program residents with a presentation. It featured a cooking demonstration and budgeting tips for food shopping.

This is an example of the agency’s trauma-informed care approach that seeks to empower residents and focus on their strengths.

Ron, a Unity House resident

Ron, a Unity House resident

Ron, who has been a Unity House resident for five months, has had an interest in cooking since childhood. While he admits to having been “nervous” about cooking for fellow residents, he soon became the go-to man in the kitchen of Antonio Person, facility assistant at Unity House.

In addition to cooking, Antonio ensures that Unity House meets facility standards. He also drives residents to various appointments and takes some along when he shops for program needs.

Antonio believes that shared kitchen experiences help individuals in recovery. “Some of these guys have never made a meal in their lives,” he explained. “Now, they cook, clean up the kitchen, pitch in and are very supportive of each other. This gives them more independence and lowers their dependency on others.”

Ron has developed greater confidence in his cooking skills and ability to cook for others. “I like to cook comfort food,” he said, noting that Polish pierogi and golumpki are among his favorites, as is chicken parmesan. He can make different styles of spaghetti sauce – tomato-basil or a sweeter Sicilian. While most of his 24 fellow residents crave his take on Philly cheesesteak, Ron also pays attention to menu requests from vegetarians.

“I might be able to start a catering business,” Ron said, looking ahead positively. “I’ve always wanted to. It is great to see people smiling while at a table. I love being in the kitchen.”

Antonio Person, facility assistant at Unity House

Antonio Person, facility assistant at Unity House

“Recently, Ron prepared a meatloaf that wasn’t even on the menu,” Antonio said. “After he cooked dinner, he stepped in to help prepare breakfast for the next day. He’s always there when I need him. I call him ‘Mr. Reliable’.”

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