Tampa Bay Lightning Community Hero keeps love growing, bellies full by teaching kids to cook

This article was submitted to the Tampa Bay Times and then adapted into a press release on behalf of Where Love Grows’ nourish. awareness campaign.

By Adam Hardy

TAMPA, Fla. — Wednesday afternoon at the Wilbert Davis-Belmont Heights Boys & Girls Club, Victoria “Vicki” Anzalone stood in the front of the lunchroom, armed with two silver sauce pots and a smile.

After a few attention-grabbing clanks of the pots, 19 middle-school students silenced and rushed to their designated cooking stations.

“Oh, I like these,” Anzalone quipped.

This marked the beginning of Anzalone’s twenty-first cooking class as founder of Tampa Bay area non-profit Where Love Grows.

Where Love Grows started in December 2012 with a large family-style dinner for the community. Anzalone initially intended on doing the dinners once a year. But that soon changed when she found out the child-hunger statistics in the Tampa Bay Area.

Roughly one in four children is food insecure according to Feeding Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay’s largest food pantry.

“After the first year of feeding the kids – which was extremely rewarding – I just felt that it ended with the dinner,” Anzalone said. “364 nights I can’t feed them, so I just felt ‘Why don’t we teach them to cook?’“

Anzalone then shifted to hosting the family-style dinner nights once a month, calling them Victoria’s Good Kitchen, and launched another initiative, the mobile cooking classes.

The cooking course consists of five classes, which are book-ended by events at the Epicurean hotel. A ceremony marks the end of the course, where the students get a bag of groceries, a Where Love Grows chef apron, and a recipe book full of cost-effective recipes.

This week, class two, the students were learning to cook apple cinnamon bread pudding. Anzalone demonstrated each step at the front of the lunchroom while the students meticulously followed along, preparing their own batches to take home.

Ja’nakia, 12, attended this cooking class and was excited to have another recipe to add to her repertoire.

“I have ants in my pants when I heard we’re cooking today,” she said.

Ja’nakia has attended many Where Love Grows events and said they taught her not only how to cook but also “how to care for others, have respect.”

Those themes are central to Where Love Grows. By instilling those characteristics in children, Anzalone hopes to break the cycle of childhood hunger. She isn’t just feeding one child; she is feeding a whole family indefinitely.

For her work in the community, Anzalone was awarded the Lightning Community Hero in February 2015, but childhood hunger still persists in our community. To find out how to donate or how to get involved to end food insecurity, visit www.wherelovegrows.org.

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