Classes are offered by the Society for Students with Disabilities in addition to their food delivery and reimbursement program
The Society for Students with Disabilities (SSD) at UVic is offering cooking classes to supplement their established Food Security program.
The SSD is a group that advocates for the rights and needs of UVic students, both graduate and undergraduate, who self-identify as having a disability, whether visible or invisible.
“We take a pretty broad approach to disability, and if you identify as having one or more disabilities, you’re already a community member here,” said Marissa Donaldson, SSD education and administration coordinator, in an interview with the Martlet.
Food security programs have been offered at the SSD for two years. Students can either choose to receive food boxes delivered to their homes or they can opt to receive grocery reimbursement if that fits their situation better. “Folks can submit receipts for food items up to $200,” added Donaldson.
The delivery boxes are prepared by the Fernwood Neighbourhood Group, and food items offered range from produce, offered biweekly, to pantry staples, offered as a one-time package.
The SSD does not require formal diagnosis from students to be eligible for the food services. “As long as you identify as being a disabled student, then you qualify for [the] program,” said Donaldson.
Between 70 and 90 students access the SSD’s Food Security program each semester. “We really want to make sure that folks know that it exists, and that they are able to access the programs,” Donaldson added.
“The cooking classes [are] a new thing this semester,” she explained. “I started as a staff member at the beginning of October, and one thing that I really wanted to bring [was] my love of cooking to a more accessible front for disabled folks.”
Donaldson wanted to incorporate ingredients from the food boxes into the cooking classes.
“If you’re just getting random produce delivered to you, sometimes it’s hard to plan a meal or plan what to cook with it,” she said.
“The goal is to help students be able to understand how to create meals out of different things,” said Donaldson, explaining that the classes start “at a very basic level, just learning knife skills and how to chop things, and then going up into more intricate recipes.”
The in-person cooking classes will be at the Fairfield-Gonzales Community Association’s kitchen, which Donaldson and her team deemed to be the most accessible cooking space in Victoria.
“If coming in person is not an accessible option or if folks are not physically in Victoria, we’re also going to be doing it over Zoom,” said Donaldson, adding that the instructor will have a microphone and a camera that can be moved throughout the demonstration.
Classes are designed to progress from easier concepts to more challenging recipes. “The idea is that people are signing up for a series, because the skills will be building over time,” said Donaldson, though she added that she is “understanding if something happens and you can’t attend, I just ask that you let me know so that we can plan accordingly.”
The class size is limited to 10 people in person, but there is no limit to who can register for attendance over Zoom.
Donaldson said that achieving food security can be especially difficult for students with disabilities, who may have costly dietary limitations. “Having that food security program can help reduce those barriers,” she added.
AJ Wasserman is a UVic student and member of the SSD community who is a user of the food security program. “Being disabled, I can’t always have a job,” they told the Martlet. “Food security [programming] allows me to have access to fresh vegetables and fruit when money is a little tight.”
Wasserman is also signed up to attend the cooking classes. “I’m hoping to go in person, hopefully my body allows that,” they said. “I’m excited that they have a hybrid option to do it online if I can’t make it.”
They’re especially looking forward to improving their cooking abilities. “I’m excited that [the classes] are going to be teaching knife skills — that’s something that I’m very bad at, so I’ll be excited to learn how to do it properly and safely,” said Wasserman.
The first class is on Tuesday, Jan. 30 from 6 p.m.–9 p.m. Students can register for both the Food Security Program and cooking classes on the SSD website, by following the links on the SSD Instagram bio (@uvicssd), or by emailing email@example.com for more information.