Housed inside Grace United Methodist Church on Salem Avenue, Dayton Cooks! is a 10-week culinary arts training program that also provides food for children in after-school programs in the urban Dayton area.
Since the start of the pandemic, the program has shifted its attention to the needs of Dayton and how to serve a bigger purpose. Students prepare more than 300 meals a day, distributing the food in coordination with local non-profits such as the Wesley Community Center, Boys & Girls Club, East End Community Center and Omega Community Development Corporation. It also is supported through the Ohio Department of Education’s Children Family Feeding Program.
“Dayton Cooks has been amazing,” said Tiffany Countryman, BGCD business office manager. “Everyone had to pivot during the COVID-19 shutdown, and they were very reactive. They didn’t give up, they didn’t throw their hands up. They were able to, you know, to pivot and serve the community to an even greater need, in my opinion, than what they were already doing.”
Currently, 150 free meals, per day are provided at the BGCD pick-up site, however, Countryman said if they see a need to order more, they will.
“People don’t need to bring their kids or (other) people with them as proof,” Countryman said. “Just park, or if you’re on the bus line, walk in and pick up meals. No need to knock or ask for anything — you just take what you need.”
Dayton’s needs were no secret to Countryman, though she said the pandemic has brought her face-to-face with the community’s needs in an eye-opening way.
“To connect with all the various organizations and programs going on throughout the city has personally allowed me to expose the club to others, as well as to be exposed to other organizations and movements within the city that I had no idea about,” Countryman said. “So it’s been very rewarding.”
Countryman said there is no end in sight for the no-contact, hot meal pickup program.
“We just wanted to provide what we can to the community as a whole,” Countryman said.