ORLANDO, Fla. — The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down Second Harvest’s culinary training program kitchen, but it hasn’t stopped them from training their students and helping them make it through the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Students in program continuing training from home kitchens
  • Second Harvest providing ingredients to students for "classwork"
  • More Orange County stories

In her Orlando home, student Ani Cancel is preparing a recipe given to her by the program's chef instructors

She had just started Second Harvest’s culinary training program when the pandemic hit Central Florida.

“We were only there for like a week and a half before they told us to go, so we didn’t touch the kitchen at all,” Cancel said.

She worried that her schooling would be cut short by the pandemic, but like many other students right now, her home has become the school.

“They said, 'OK, everyone is going to be getting a recipe box and you’re going to make it on your own,” Cancel said.

Classwork feeding families

Not having a chef there with her to guide her is tough, but she does her "homework" the best she can.

“I’m still making some delicious mistakes!” she said.

Ani lives with her parents and two kids, 5-year-old MariLae and 1-year-old Eirahn. The pandemic has made money tight for her big family.

“I have two kids and two parents to feed, and my mom was working at the time she got furloughed," Cancel explained. "She’s a hairdresser, I was scared I wasn’t going to have enough food, quality food."

But luckily for her, Second Harvest is providing all the ingredients she needs for her “classwork" delivered to her. 

That classwork, in turn, can feed her whole family each day and even feed others she's shared with, so she never has to worry about where their next meal is coming from.

“Our fridge is full," she said. "Granted it’s ingredients for an assignment, but I feel so lucky. Being a single mom and going through some hard times and a lot of changes and now I have this blessing, and I have hope, literally hope!”