Meet PORCH Volunteer Katie Clarke, a Nutritionist Helping Our Families to Utilize the Fresh Ingredients We Provide
Through PORCH Cooks, our organization provides recipes and nutrition information each month to the more than 550 families in Chapel Hill and Carrboro who are enrolled in our Food for Families program. This is made possible by volunteer Katie Clarke. For the better part of a decade, she has developed simple, approachable recipes for us to share, along with information about cooking techniques and food storage.
Katie is a nutritionist who went to culinary school at Johnson & Wales University. She was a food service director for many years before getting her master’s degree in nutrition at Meredith College and becoming a registered dietitian. She now works for the state government – specifically, for WIC, a special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children.
She was introduced to PORCH while at Meredith College, having heard that PORCH’s founders were seeking a volunteer with nutrition expertise. PORCH had just completed surveying their participants and discovered that many were unfamiliar with some of the fresh foods provided to them each month – particularly produce, such as eggplant.
In an effort to remove that barrier, Katie developed materials that went home with the participants – with recipes, food storage tips, nutritional fun facts, and family questions to ask at the dinner table. Before distributing her first recipe for an eggplant pasta dish, she hosted a demonstration at a food distribution, allowing the families to enjoy samples and ask questions.
Katie keeps seasonality in mind as well as affordability and approachability when creating PORCH recipes. She aims to feed a family of four for less than $10 – if the recipe is for a dessert or a side dish, the costs are even lower.
She plays in her own kitchen, inventing dishes and ensuring that the results are satisfactory before sending the recipe to the PORCH team for it to be translated into Spanish and printed in English and Spanish. Recently, she has submitted recipes for a three-ingredient pear cake; canned chicken transformed into chicken nuggets; broccoli with sesame noodles (see recipe below); overnight oats; peanut butter roll ups with bananas, honey, and cereal; and watermelon ice cream.
“Customer service is my blood,” says Katie, adding that she loves that her volunteer effort offers flexibility and gets her creative juices flowing. “I like to think that kids are being brought more into kitchens [because of these recipes]. One of my founding objectives of this was reinvigorating kitchen confidence. That is a big mission of mine. Over and over, research shows the more people make their own food, the healthier they are in general.”
A mother of three, Katie gives back to her community in other ways as well: She has donated her hair seven times, donated 1,000 ounces of breast milk to the local milk bank, gives blood regularly, and makes financial gifts to various local non-profits.