We’re more likely to connect the Food Network with its stable of celebrity chefs than with those struggling for decent nutrition, but Food Network kitchen chef Sarah Copeland would like to change that.

In her most recent entry on the Food Network Kitchens blog, Sarah tells of a trip to South Africa and a visit to the Waterberg Welfare Society, an HIV hospice. Most meals at the hospice consist of pap, a porridge made from grain, usually corn. While the hospice has a garden, the group members lack the cooking experience needed to take advantage of its output.

As a trained chef, Sarah knew she could help. She returned the next day for a cooking demonstration. Through a translator she explained the nutritional value of the different vegetables and showed how to make a vegetable stew.

This was a different kind of cooking demonstration from anything I had ever done before (there were no Viking ranges, All-Clad pots or pans, no pressed white chef’s jackets), but it was suddenly the most important demo of my life. And because each person was committed to taking steps to improving their lives and their health…they were incredibly encouraging to work with.

Sarah reports that the experience “forever changed my vision of how I relate to the abundant food resources I live and work around every day.” She’s committed to studying more about nutrition issues specific to people with HIV/AIDS and is planning on teaching a class this spring for HIV-positive teens through the nonprofit organization Share Our Strength. As Sarah notes, “There are 35 million people worldwide living with a nutrient-deficient diet.”

It would be great to see the Food Network as a whole get more involved in some of these important—though admittedly less sexy—issues.

See more articles