“Cooking is a way of educating our people.
Eating is something holistic that binds and educates us
—because absolutely everything is connected to it.”
For Salvadorans, if not the entire Latino community, pupusas are a dish we can enjoy at any time. We all know that person who makes the best pupusas; however, Violeta not only prepares the best, but also the healthiest because of their reduced vegetable fat content and zero saturated fat content.
Violeta started working as a promotora when she arrived in this country 15 years ago. In El Salvador, she had earned a culinary chef degree in which she became versed in subjects such as biology, chemistry, and nutrition. Since then she has been inspired by anything related to health, including dentistry.
Violeta’s dream was to open a restaurant; however, she had to prioritize caring for her children, who are now 20 and 14 years old. She became actively involved in the school community, where she had the opportunity to complete a basic nutrition course with the organization 18 Reasons. She also got involved as a volunteer and worked with the program’s chef, who noticed her talent and encouraged her to continue working in the food industry.
Bit by bit, Violeta got involved in various programs in San Francisco, including IFR’s Casa Corazón (which works with families) and Visión y Compromiso (the largest network of promoters in California). That is how this leader came to begin teaching nutrition classes to her community—as a volunteer. “Being active in these organizations gave me exposure, and gave me an opportunity to have a formal job doing what I like the most,” says Violeta, who for two years was the executive chef of Jamestown, offering healthy food to young assistants of their summer program, providing more than 350 servings of multicultural, nutritious food daily.
“Young people feel happy when they receive food that is fresh and made with love, just like the food made at home,” asserts this community leader. She later became part of the team of promoters of CARECEN (Central American Resource Center of Northern California), where she works as a nutrition educator for families participating in the workshops.
Violeta has always been accompanied by her children, who learned about healthy eating since they were little, which is how they eat at home. Inspired by a great passion for food and its connection with health, Violeta graduated as a chef in San Francisco. This brought even more opportunities her way as she put her cooking and nutrition skills into practice with a focus on the community.
Being involved in these activities has made Violeta more aware about the needs of her community as well as the importance of continuing her studies in the health field—including herbal medicine. Acquiring this knowledge has helped her communicate more appropriately about the properties of each ingredient she uses in her recipes.
“We are talking about food security, about the way we take care of the soil when we plant food, about the way in which it connects us to our memories, our culture, filling our heart with happiness, nostalgia, sadness. It’s also about how it impacts our mental health. There is no greater satisfaction than when
a participant approaches me to share that she has changed her diet and improved her eating habits,” she adds. This is Violeta’s passion, which she does not view as a job but as something she enjoys and finds very satisfying.
Violeta was recently recognized with the Community Service Award by the organization Promotores con Alma, as a tribute to the love with which she has devoted herself to her community.
Want to read Violeta's recipe?