Turn the Beet Around: Meet Community Chef Yadira Garcia

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File 1718Yadira Garcia, one of Just Food’s new Community Chefs, has made it her mission to inspire all New Yorkers to live a happy, healthy lifestyle.

“The power of whole foods gave me my life back and I want to pay it forward by teaching others,” she says.  “I grew up in an area of the Bronx with very little access to organic and fresh seasonal foods. I didn’t even know what a farmers’ market was. Today, my life is so much better because of fresh, local food.”

Each spring, interested community members are invited to apply to Just Food’s Community Chef Training program.  Yadira was part of this year’s class of Community Chefs, who learned how to facilitate workshops about local, seasonal eating and cooking; basic nutrition; fruit and vegetable identification; recipe selection and creation; knife skills; and food storage and preparation.

Ten years ago, an accidental fall left Yadira disabled with herniated discs and a broken tailbone and shoulder.  Being on bed rest and having to use a walker led to various health problems. When she made the decision to turn her life around by making changes in her cooking and eating habits, she saw a tremendous difference.

“I had started researching natural remedies, and became interested in the healing power of different foods and nutrients,” Yadira says. “After five years of improving my diet, I lost 60 lbs. and now walk unassisted.”

For the past year, Yadira has been sharing her own personal health journey with the rest of the world. Her healthy living account, Happy Healthy Latina, has grown quite the following on social media.  Her posts show the simple, locally-sourced, plant-based meals she makes, and give tips for shopping for fresh and local food on a budget. Yadira strives to motivate others to change their health through natural solutions, just like she was able to. 

Now that Yadira has completed Just Food’s training, she and the other new Community Chefs will begin facilitating interactive food education workshops in the community.  Throughout the harvest season, Community Chefs will be conducting cooking demonstrations at farmers’ markets in order to teach others how to select fresh produce and prepare healthy, delicious, and affordable meals.

Yadira feels confident that her new role as a Community Chef will expand her reach.  She is especially excited to connect with the communities considered food deserts, like the neighborhood she grew up in, and put her training to good use.

“I believe changing our health and increasing food access in our neighborhoods starts with a connection. Just Food put me in touch with what the real issues in the communities are,” she says. “I feel honored and inspired by my experience.”