Ediel Velazquez Journey from Participant to Assistant Nutritionist
When Ediel Velazquez first participated in the Food Bank of South Jersey’s Health & Wellness programs, he was just starting middle school at Cooper B. Hatch Family School in Camden. The program Ediel experienced was Cooking Matters for Kids, a component of the program Cooking Matters, which empowers families with the tools and strategies to stretch their budget in order to cook healthy meals.
For Ediel, Cooking Matters for Kids introduced a love of cooking, as well as the skills and understanding to make healthy food choices. It also introduced Ediel to a whole new Food Bank family that would watch him grow into a youth leader in his community, as well as an aspiring nutritionist and vHealth & Wellness youth leader.
Today, at 17, with a focus on supporting and demonstrating a message of healthy food understanding, nutritious food preparation and youth hunger awareness, Ediel serves as a Nutrition Assistant at the Food Bank. A senior at Camden’s Big Picture Learning Academy, as well as a leading participant in the Camden Youth Advisory Council (CYAC), which regularly holds meetings at the Food Bank of South Jersey, Ediel has grown from a shy middle schooler into a powerful youth leader – with a passion for sharing the importance of healthy eating.
“When we first met Ediel, he was quiet, but really eager to learn,” shares Tricia Yeo, Senior Manager, Health & Wellness at the Food Bank of South Jersey. “When asking the students question about the class, he wasn’t the first to raise his hand, but he always knew the answer. He was willing to try everything that we cooked – he was interested, respectful and appreciative and those qualities have not changed.”
Over his years of involvement – from childhood program participant to experienced assistant nutritionist – Ediel understands not only the basics of nutrition, but the science behind healthy choices. His journey with the Health & Wellness team at the Food Bank has taken him from earnest learner to engaged teacher – a journey the Food Bank’s Yeo is incredibly grateful to have witnessed.
“When he is assisting in our children’s programming, he knows just the right things to say to get young students to try new foods. When he is working in our adult classes, he always impresses participants with his knowledge and expertise,” Yeo says proudly. “He is an amazingly pleasant, thoughtful, smart and dedicated young leader, with the creativity, intellect and work ethic to inspire all who meet him.”
As for Ediel, his humility exudes from his warm, brilliant smile: “Nutrition is very important. Growing up as part of the Food Bank has been such a big part of my life – I am glad I have had the opportunity to learn and grown with the Food Bank, and to be able to now share my knowledge with the community.”
To learn more about the Food Bank of South Jersey’s Health & Wellness programs for children and young people, like Ediel, visit foodbanksj.org/health-and-wellness.