A Day with The LA Kitchen

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Designmatters Team May 23, 2018

As part of our yearly team retreat the Designmatters staff recently spent a day volunteering at The LA Kitchen, a local non-profit that provides healthy meals to fellow citizens and meaningful and educational volunteer opportunities for students, corporate groups, civic organizations, and individuals.  Here are a few candid stories from the Designmatters team…


It was so inspiring to work side by side with the students at LA Kitchen and learn more about the model of the organization, which is impactful on multiple levels, addressing food waste, nutrition, sustainability, and job training.  The organization’s approach is really innovative and serves the needs of many people. I especially enjoyed getting out of the office with the Designmatters team and “walking the walk” of doing meaningful work in the community.

– Jennifer May, Director, Designmatters


Our time spent at L.A. Kitchen afforded me the opportunity to engage and interact with members of the L.A. community that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I bonded with Curtis, an ex-convict from Compton, just 90 days out of prison. He was extremely transparent about his 24 years spent in maximum-security prisons across California – the last 14 of them spent in solitary confinement – and I was in awe hearing about his readjustment to everyday life. Curtis was honest about his desire to change his life going forward, starting with L.A. Kitchen’s Empower program: 14-weeks of culinary training that provides adults transitioning out of incarceration with professional opportunities in the industry. Admittedly, this retreat was a fascinating exercise in recognizing my own privilege. I’m thankful I was able to genuinely connect – and speak openly – with someone who has had such a different life experience than I.

– Susannah Ramshaw, Associate Director, Designmatters

I enjoyed Designmatters day of volunteering at LA Kitchen! The Designmatters team hit the Prep Kitchen where we met Alisha, Henry, and Antoine who were all really sweet and happy to show us their culinary techniques learned in LA Kitchen’s job training.  I learned how to properly cut a mango without waste, and happy to say that by noon, my new friends called me “The Mango Master”.  LA Kitchen is a simple and impactful place to volunteer – go do it!  🙂

– Garret Scullin, Senior Coordinator, Designmatters


Truth be told, I usually shy away from this type of volunteer work because it reminds me of a painful time in my life. But a few weeks ago I found myself volunteering alongside my Designmatters colleagues at the LA Kitchen.  As I connected and chatted with the student chefs, some of which were former prison inmates, it really put some things in perspective for me.   Although most of the people in the kitchen had just met, I felt an immediate family vibe with an atmosphere of positivity.  During my time at LA Kitchen, I observed quite a few things but here are some highlights… 1) Cutting/chopping mangos is difficult but satisfying. 2) There is something strangely gratifying about wearing a hairnet that immediately puts folks in a good mood. 3) The staff at LA Kitchen love what they do and pass that love onto the volunteers and student chefs. 4) Empowering others to teach a skill they may have just learned is a great way to build self confidence and reinforce learning outcomes.

So thanks to LA Kitchen for teaching me some cool culinary skills and giving me the opportunity to not only give back but to engage with people that helped me to learn a little something about myself.

– Steven Butler, Media Coordinator, Designmatters


I walked onto the Metro platform in downtown Santa Monica with excitement as I anticipated the 2018 Designmatters Retreat! Two trains later, I met my colleagues outside of L.A. Kitchen in Lincoln Heights. Our team spent the morning, alongside men and women transitioning out of incarceration, preparing mangoes and carrots that would later be transformed into nutritious meals and snacks for Los Angeles’ aging, low­ income, and homeless populations. I learned how to properly cut mangoes (without mangling them) and peel and cut carrots like a professional. We all shared an experience and personal stories with one another that connected us as people and seemingly removed what keeps us apart on the street.

– Sherry Hoffman, Senior Educational Liaison, Designmatters

To learn more about volunteer opportunities at the LA Kitchen please visit –> http://www.lakitchen.org/volunteer/