Season II Episode 5: SNAP-Ed & Next Generation Health Educators

Date Recorded: 5/29/2024

Stocking the Pantry Logo

Tune in to the latest episode of Stocking the Pantry, “SNAP-Ed & Next Generation Health Educators,” hosted by  Carlos Alessandrini, a new addition to our host team! Carlos is a Senior Program Coordinator at Leah’s Pantry, organizing food distributions and Spanish-speaking workshops. In this episode, Carlos interviews three exceptional California State University students about their unique experiences with their campus food security programs.


  • Vincent Lopez, MS Nutritional Science, California State University, Long Beach

  • Venicia L. Santana, BS Nutrition – Dietetics Option, Cal Poly Pomona

  • Giselle Corral, B.S., California State University, Dominguez Hills

New episodes are set to debut at the end of each month. Come curious, leave inspired, and share your thoughts with us on Instagram at @leahspantryorg.



[00:00:02] Colby D'Onofrio: Welcome to Stocking the Pantry, a CalFresh Healthy Living Podcast from Leah's Pantry. We'd like to acknowledge our funder, the CalFresh Healthy Living Program, an equal opportunity employer and provider. On this show, we discuss any and all things community nutrition, food equity, and nutrition security. This is a space for thought leaders to share success stories and strategies for equity-centered and resilience-building initiatives. We hope to foster collaboration and community as well as leverage strengths among listeners, guests, and hosts as we share ideas and dreams of building a more equitable future where everyone has access to healthful nourishing food.


Hello, everyone, and welcome to Stocking the Pantry. I'm Colby.

[00:00:55] Tee Atwell: And I'm Tee. Today, we have a special surprise for y'all.

[00:01:00] Colby D'Onofrio: We are very excited to introduce you to Carlos Alessandrini, our new host.

[00:01:07] Tee Atwell: Carlos has been at Leah's Pantry since June of 2023 and has a background in podcasting. When we asked our co-workers if anyone wanted to join the podcast team, Carlos jumped at the chance.

[00:01:20] Colby D'Onofrio: It has been a pleasure to work with him behind the scenes, and we couldn't be happier to have him now behind the mic.

[00:01:27] Tee Atwell: We're going to let Carlos tell you a little bit about himself. Go ahead and take it away, Carlos.

[00:01:33] Carlos Alessandrini: Hey everyone. Saludos a todos from the border city of San Diego, California with Tijuana, Mexico. TJ, my hometown. My name is Carlos Alessandrini. I'm a senior program coordinator with Leah's Pantry. I'm involved in several duties across many departments in the organization. However, I'm facilitating in-person Spanish cooking workshops and organizing food distributions most of my time. I'm a native Spanish-speaking Mexican American who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons but not liking soccer.

A few years back, I co-created, co-produced, and co-hosted a Spanish nutrition podcast. Unfortunately, we launched our pod a few months before COVID, and the project was canceled at the height of the pandemic. Fast forward a few years later, I joined Leah's Pantry and the Stocking the Pantry podcast committee a little over six months ago, and I'm excited to be the newest host on the show.

In our most recent episode, I had the opportunity to interview three exceptional Chico State students within the CFHL world. Was fascinating to discover similarities between providing cooking classes and demos to adults and elders compared to college students. We also discussed unique challenges they encounter running various campus programs and how they take advantage of opportunities for growth when presented. I hope you enjoy learning about the realities of facilitating community cooking workshops in this latest Stocking the Pantry episode, The Next Gen of CFHL Health Educators. [foreign language]


Hello, and welcome to Stocking the Pantry. I'm Carlos Alessandrini, and I'm your host. On today's episode, SNAP-Ed and the Next Gen of CFHL Health Educators, we hope to provide our listeners with the inside scoop into CFHL education programs being led by students on college campuses. We are excited to speak with Giselle Corral, a master's student at CSU Dominguez Hills; Vincent Lopez, a master's student at CSU Long Beach; and Venicia Santana, a bachelor's student from Cal Poly Pomona. Thank you all for being here today. It's great you have such a diverse group of students to speak with.

To get things started, I would like for each of you to share your name, your major, and a personal story about what inspired you to pursue your current course of study. I'll leave this an open mic question for any of you to feel free to chime in.

[00:04:15] Giselle Corral: Hi. My name is Giselle Corral. My master's in Public Administration, Public Management Concentration. I guess a background story would be once I graduated in 2020, which is-- I call it a pandemic baby. I was a pandemic baby. I didn't know what I wanted to do. I was still in higher ed. I just knew that I didn't want to stay where I was. I didn't want to stay stagnant. I applied to my master's in Dominguez Hills, and it was the only master's that I applied to. I got in and then the rest is history.

[00:04:49] Vincent Lopez: Hello, everyone. My name is Vincent Lopez, and I'm a current grad student in the MS Nutritional Science program at Cal State Long Beach. If I can share a personal story. About five years ago, I was having heart problems. Back then, all I consumed was fast food, prepackaged meals, and sugary drinks. Along with those habits, I was very overweight and I didn't exercise that much. When the heart problems came, I was shocked because it felt like the inside of my chest was being squeezed out of me. After two cardiac episodes in a single week, I decided to make a healthy change through nutrition and exercise.

During that time, Google Search became my professor for nutrition. I looked at everything online concerning nutrition and found out what worked and what didn't worked. About a year later from that point, I was able to lose weight and no longer experience heart problems. From that experience, I changed majors and pursued nutrition dietetics. I fully believe in the power of a healthy lifestyle and what nutrition can do for you.

[00:05:46] Venicia L. Santana: My name is Venicia Santana, and I'm currently studying nutrition in the dietetics option at Cal Poly Pomona. I really decided to go into dietetics because I think the science of food and using food as medicine or healing property, it's very interesting to me, and food connects people through culture, and it's just always there.

[00:06:08] Carlos Alessandrini: What about your professional journey with CFHL? I would like to know more about it and how it got started. I perfectly remember my first weeks at Leah's Pantry and could ramble on about the motivation that got me here and the passion that I have for supporting the community. For each of you, how are those first weeks working with CFHL? Venicia, could you please start?

[00:06:33] Venicia L. Santana: Cal Poly Pomona I think was a little late to joining the CalFresh Healthy Living program, but we barely became a partner I think around the end of 2022. Before that, we did have a program very similar to CalFresh Healthy Living. It was called Meals with CalFresh, where we were doing similar stuff and demonstrating food recipes to students.

Once we were on board with CalFresh Healthy Living, it was just very exciting for my team and I. My manager was also very excited. We were very full steam ahead. We were thinking about ideas to collaborate with other campus partners. Our training was super fun, just watching the videos and understanding the curriculum, that other classmates were also going to be a part of and just knowing that we're all working towards one common goal. It was very exciting.

[00:07:18] Carlos Alessandrini: Giselle, could you share your experience?

[00:07:21] Giselle Corral: I'm not sure when the program got to Dominguez, but I did start off volunteering with basic means when they have their food drives during the pandemic. I was borrowed from another department to be able to help with the drives. Morgan, at the time, knew that I was on my personal fitness journey, a health journey just because I have been trying to take care of myself. I am a Latina, and I am predisposed to diabetes, high blood pressure. I've always tried to have one foot ahead of that so I could control my life a lot better. She knew that I was already on my fitness. She told me that she wanted to hire me, but took like two to three years.

Later on, she came in and she was like, "I want to hire you here. Apply." Then the rest is basically history. It's been such a good time. I think I fit the position naturally. I didn't really have to force. Like you did mention, it was something very new. Just because I did it on my own time does it mean that I did it as a job. My mom is a chef, so it was something interesting that I could go talk to her about it because she knew so much and knows so much. It was something new but something not so new because I grew up with it. Yes, that's how I got started.

[00:08:46] Carlos Alessandrini: I agree, Giselle. I can tell you're natural in this. Vincent, what about you?

[00:08:53] Vincent Lopez: This all began about a year ago in my first year of grad school as I was in a community nutrition class. During that time, my professor shared volunteering opportunities to table with CFHL. I joined the tabling events, and this allowed me to have a first-hand experience and interact with the community. Then a few months later, my professor shared opportunities to sit in at the beach kitchen and actually watch the CFHL team as they provide nutrition education and cooking demos.

During that time, it was Food Smarts for Adults. Now, thinking about it, this was a very nice experience for me over the course of the year as it allowed me to table with CFHL then watch them teach college students, then to become a part of the team in a few months.

When I became a member of CFHL team in April of last year, I was able to have like a general idea of what the team does for college students. When I was on the team, we were teaching Food Smarts for Colleges as it was more hands-on and we imported knife skills for every lesson. Overall, this was like a new area of work for me. The first few weeks, it was mostly survival, just trying to figure out what to do, trying to find my role on the team. The beautiful thing is my perspective shifted from me, then it went toward the students and how I can provide for them. I thought that was a really good experience for me.

[00:10:12] Carlos Alessandrini: I love facilitating the basic knife skills lesson. Vincent, I would like to stay with you. I appreciate your evolution as a facilitator, however, could you describe your current role and duties with CFHL?

[00:10:27] Vincent Lopez: Yes. That's a great question, Carlos. For me, my current role, I would say it's primarily managing the budget for ingredient purchases. For any event we have in the beach kitchen, this would be single sessions, this would be series sessions, and also the tabling events if we provide samples for them. When it comes to the other duties I have, it's mostly teamwork. This would be leading the nutrition education while my partners did the cooking demos and then working with the team when it comes to ingredient prep, cooking, and cleaning the kitchen as well. Last but not least, reporting for all the events that we've done together.

[00:11:01] Carlos Alessandrini: Of course. You got to love those end-of-the-day reports. Giselle, could you describe your current role and duties with CFHL?

[00:11:11] Giselle Corral: My official title is Food Access Coordinator at Teddy's Pantry. That's our pantry's name at CSU Dominguez Hills. I manage the pantry. What that includes is intaking deliveries, doing orders, doing count of every single item I have in the inventory, putting that into our system. It's called PantrySoft. Very hard to do but I'm learning how to do it. I also do troubleshooting for students. If they can't sign in, I do manual orders, I do nutrition education classes, I do the food demos. I have a lot under my belt.

Definitely working in Teddy's Pantry and having the CalFresh Healthy Living, they do actually merge very well. I've learned how to handle them both. It's very fun just because I get to put recipes on the pantry orders so they can see what they can make with the recipe. I've merged these two to work for me, and it seems very fun and students are always like, "I want a new recipe. I want a new recipe." For me personally, it was more about how do I make these work instead of it being so far apart. They're two different jobs, but how can I make it together? It's fun for me and the students. Those are some of the duties that I do.

[00:12:26] Carlos Alessandrini: Thank you, Giselle. What about your current role and duties, Venicia?

[00:12:32] Venicia L. Santana: I'm currently a CalFresh Outreach student ambassador at the care center at Cal Poly Pomona. The care center is our main hub for student support and well-being. With that, I help students apply for CalFresh or SNAP EBT. Then through that, I facilitate food demonstrations and lessons from CalFresh Healthy Living, and similar to Giselle, utilizing ingredients that can be bought with EBT and SNAP EBT, as well as our poly pantry on campus.

[00:13:03] Carlos Alessandrini: Thank you for all your answers. I'll leave this question as an open mic again. What would you say is your favorite teaching story? Do you have any meaningful experiences to share?

[00:13:15] Giselle Corral: I think one of my meaningful stories was where I couldn't have access to what we call our common kitchen and university housing. That's where I do all my food demos, all my nutrition education. I basically lived there for the CalFresh Healthy Living. They were booked and I was panicking and I didn't know what to do because I had already agreed to doing the food demo.

We ended up doing it in the hallway, one of our new buildings. We blocked it off. It was safe. We put tables, so it was like stationed. When I say "we," I mean me and two of my student assistants. We were doing nutrition education while we were standing up and then food demos where we were standing up. It seemed like a great time, students seemed to love it. That was very meaningful because it taught me that I'm so flexible and I can do it all. Not to brag, but I can do it all. Give me any challenge and I can overcome it, and students seem to really like it.

[00:14:16] Venicia L. Santana: Similar to like Giselle was saying, we facilitate the food demonstrations at a community kitchen. There's constantly students walking by. They either stop by and they watch and they stay for the food demonstration or sometimes they watch by, see what I'm cooking, and then leave. This one student was just walking on by and I was doing a recipe with I think a French baguette and tomatoes and basil, and the student smelled basil. He came back by. He was like, "Are you guys cooking with basil?" Of course, I said, "Yes," and I explained the recipe to him.

He had brought up a story how he had just came back from Italy since he was a part of a study-abroad program. Then I had another student that was already in the food demonstration, and she was a transfer student, a foreign exchange student, and they were just started bonding about Italy and we were connecting it to the lesson as well and how we could get that basil also from the pantry. It was just really nice to see not only you're facilitating a food demonstration, you're facilitating new friendships and connections through nutrition, and it was just a really great feeling.

[00:15:20] Vincent Lopez: Venicia, I really enjoyed your story as well just because relating to the connections that you have with people and the kitchen. We also have the beach kitchen at Cal State Long Beach. I would say this is not really like a communal kitchen for everyone to use, but this is like an instructing kitchen.

I would say my favorite teaching story is at the beach kitchen. It involves one of my CalFresh Healthy Living trainers at Cal State Long Beach. I was teaching lunch on the go and I was showing the class how to chop bell peppers. In the middle of the lesson, my coworker, she comes over and she says, "Flip it over." I just stared at her in suspense because I wasn't too sure what she was saying. She comes over and she starts chopping the bell pepper from me saying skin down and the flesh up. After all that took place, she goes back to the corner and just smiles at me. I pointed at my work and I told the class, "Okay, this is what not to do." Then I pointed back at her work and said, "This is what to do."

In all honesty, I was very embarrassed because of the proper way to chop a bell pepper. I thought this would be a great teaching moment and showed to the class, "Hey, I'm learning with you guys, so don't feel bad about making a mistake. Just do the best you can." When I said that, you can just feel the tension in the room leave and the piece comes in. I like to think we created and reinforced the safe learning environment for students to try new things.

[00:16:42] Carlos Alessandrini: Thank you for sharing. I appreciate your transparency and the flexibility offered to your participants and yourselves as facilitators. I'm also very familiar with facilitating cooking workshops and food demos where most of my audiences have been with adults and elders for the around-the-table nourishing families curriculum. I've noticed how I was able to connect even more with them when I became a father, a caregiver, someone who relates to their responsibilities.

Creating learning environments where authentic connections are created is one of our goals. In each of your cases, you are students facilitating other students, and seems to be an organic peer-to-peer educational process. With that being said, how are college students preparing food nowadays? Do they know how to cook? Do they like to cook? I know you've referenced some of those challenges already, however, what else can you share about college students eating habits? Venicia, could you get us started, please?

[00:17:49] Venicia L. Santana: For the most part, college students do know how to cook the basics. They could do maybe like a spaghetti or putting something in the oven, and they do like to cook that, but it can be a struggle due to space issues or community kitchens. I think a common challenge I run into is students being skeptical of certain ingredients at first since-- At least at Cal Poly, we are a commuter school, so maybe they have somebody else preparing food for them at home that already knows what they like and they do not like.

I have an example. One time I was doing a food demonstration of chocolate pudding, and in that recipe, I believe it had avocado, bananas, and milk and vanilla and honey. Usually, before I start, I always ask if anyone is allergic to anything. The student had raised their hand and they mentioned that they weren't allergic, but they were like, they didn't like avocado that much. I was hesitant to continue with the recipe obviously since she said that she didn't like it, but after making it and her trying it, she really enjoyed it.

Just making students try new things and although it could be a little uncomfortable for them to step out of their comfort zone, encouraging them and giving them like a warm handoff and a helping hand.

[00:19:03] Carlos Alessandrini: The good old No-Cook Chocolate Pudding recipe from, one of my favorites. Could you please chime in, Vincent?

[00:19:12] Vincent Lopez: Yes. In my experience teaching of college students, I would say about half of them do know how to cook. For example, if we had a class of 15 students, about half or less than half knew how to plan meals, prep ingredients, and cook. When it comes to that question, I remember having a conversation with a student I had last semester, and he shared with me that all he would eat was chips, food from the gas station, and anything else that was pre-packaged in the store. This conversation is always in the back of my mind as I teach because this student reminded me of myself before knowing how to plan meals, prepare ingredients, and cook.

Regarding the next question, if they know how to cook. I would say now as my experience grows and just being alongside college students, I would say they do like to cook. They're like little kids and their faces just being with joy when it comes to trying something new, when it comes to being active, just being in motion. It's because as college students, we're always sitting down in classes just passively learning.

I would say one challenge of college students would be attendance mostly for us. We lost students during the semester, and maybe it's due to repetition. Just due to budget and the equipment we have, we try to focus on quick and budget-friendly recipes. I believe there's more room for us to grow when it comes to providing maybe more complex recipes, maybe more ingredients, more equipment for them just to have in order for them to be involved with this, but I would say the biggest thing, it seems like once they get an idea of it, they tend to not show up anymore.

I'm hoping that's a good thing and I'm hoping that they just found one thing from each lesson just to take away with that because I guess I don't want listeners to forget that because of this program, from my experience, like I learned how to plan meals, to prep ingredients and cook meals. I just hope that they walk away with something new.

[00:21:03] Carlos Alessandrini: I'm sure they are, Vincent. Giselle, please.

[00:21:08] Giselle Corral: I agree with Vincent. It's like 50-50 at Dominguez. I also agree with Venicia. There's some students that are very weary of specific items because they might have like-- I had one student, I ate that way too much when I was a kid and it tastes like ketchup, but what I did learn is that peer-to-peer, like you mentioned, Carlos, is very important because they trust us. We're students together, and so that's one of the biggest positives that I see.

It's like, oh, yes, they trust me. They're going to listen to me, and that does happen because I'm in their same shoes. I would say 50 do know how to cook because their family has taught them, but the other 50 doesn't know or just knows the basic, just enough to keep them going. That might be like fried eggs, that might be Top Ramen, pasta, anything that's simple and easy, nothing too complex.

I think one of the main challenges that students do experience here would be they don't have the equipment. They probably only have space for one pan. It's like the sauce pan or the boiling water pan. They have to really decide on what they can bring into housing if they're in housing or if they can afford it in their own home. Some of them have a common shared kitchen. They have to schedule in, "Hey, are you going to use it today or am I going to use it today?" They might not have that either.

They have a lot of challenges they're trying to overcome, and they still want to learn how to cook because I've heard it from them. They're like, "Yes, I want to learn how to cook. I want to do this, I want to do that." It's just that they have a time-- maybe even a time constraint, they have an equipment constraint, space constraint. I've seen everything here at DH.

[00:23:00] Carlos Alessandrini: Providing tools for real-life challenges is powerful. What has surprised you about other students' cooking skills? Let's go ahead here with Vincent.

[00:23:11] Vincent Lopez: I believe that's a great question. When it comes to learning about other students' cooking skills, I actually have like a short story. At the end of each semester, we hold an event at the beach kitchen called Master Chef. We have three students that compete for a prize and for the title of master chef at the beach kitchen. In the last event we had, which was last semester, we had one student compete, and the beautiful thing about the student is she attended all the CFHL classes that were held by us.

It was pretty amazing to see her compete and present a dish for us to taste. She didn't win first place, but for us at CFHL, just to see her grow from being a student to competitor was amazing. It warmed our hearts, and it really goes to show what this program can do for college students when given the opportunity.

[00:23:57] Carlos Alessandrini: Thank you, Vincent. I can see there how you are planting the seed, watering it, and seeing it grow. Good job, Sir. Venicia, what can you share with our audience?

[00:24:09] Venicia L. Santana: Similar to Vincent's story, this student had come repeatedly to our classes. We do basic recipes for the most part, and I believe this one time we were doing a strawberry banana pancake type deal. She had mentioned that she also uses the EatFresh website and she started giving me suggestions on what we should facilitate next. I guess she had cooked a soup that I think it takes like three hours to make. It even says on the website that it takes like three hours to make. It was just really cool to know that she's taking what we're giving to students home and she's even facilitating it in her own way. Just knowing that we're making a difference in a little way is very valuable.

[00:24:54] Carlos Alessandrini: I will add, extremely valuable. Don't undermine the strength of baby steps. Giselle, could you please wrap this one up?

[00:25:04] Giselle Corral: One of my meaningful and surprising stories was I was doing a food demo, and I had a student. She was a mother, a mother of three, and she told me, "Yes, I'm a chef. I have my chef certification and I'm also a baker." I was just like, "Maybe we should do this together." We ended up teaching the class together. She had the mother like, "I have to make this quick 'cause I have three kids to feed." She was teaching me things, the students things, and we were just bouncing off each other naturally.

It was just the confidence she had, it gave students the confidence. It even gave me confidence. It was just an overall great thing. Most of our students are parent students actually at Dominguez, so this was one of the times where they were like, yes, I'm going to listen to her because she knows how to do all of this. That was one of the surprising moments.

[00:26:02] Carlos Alessandrini: That's so cool, Giselle. It's such a joyful feeling when you're able to successfully create synergy with an audience and see everyone feeding off from each other. How cool. Giselle, Vincent, Venicia, we have a tradition here at Stocking the Pantry. We end every episode with this question, what do you stock your pantry with? It could be either literally or figuratively. I'll leave this last question as an open mic, so please feel free to chime in.

[00:26:33] Vincent Lopez: Yes, Carlos. I would like to go first and answer that. Initially, when I heard that, I thought my hopes, my dreams, but in all honesty, it's really my heart. I like to think I pour a little bit of myself into each class that I teach just hoping that what I learned under CFHL may help someone else as this program has really just been a huge blessing for me and shown me how to plan meals, how to prepare ingredients, and how to cook.

[00:26:57] Venicia L. Santana: I was thinking more literally and figuratively. Literally, there are these chocolate covered cherries that I really enjoy. I think the brand is Henry & David or something like that. They're really good and I have a big sweet tooth. When it involves fruit in some way, I think it's a positive thing for me. Literally, that's what I stock my pantry with. Then figuratively, I think having patience to understand yourself and what type of person you are and taking yourself to understand and learn from your own mistakes, I think just having the patience for that, not only yourself and other people, keeping an open mind.

[00:27:38] Giselle Corral: I can say, like Venicia, I'm going to go with both figuratively and literally. First one would be, being a lifetime learner, I'm noticing that every time a new student comes in, they have different experiences, different stories, different knowledge, and I have to be able to adapt, have to have the will to learn from them as much as they learn from me just because every person is different.

Just being flexible, like Venicia said, flexible and just being able to learn because everything changes every single day. Nothing is very concrete. Just having the patience to be a learner, that's my top one. Then avocados. I love avocados with everything, so that would be the literal thing that I always keep in my pantry.

[00:28:27] Carlos Alessandrini: Nothing like a great avocado. I agree 100% with that. Youngbloods, how can our audience follow and learn more about the great work you're doing? Would you care to share your social media and links?

[00:28:41] Giselle Corral: You can follow us on Instagram. We're mostly active on there. Our Instagram handle is @CSUDHToroCare. You can find everything Toro Care, CalFresh Healthy Living, and CalFresh.

[00:28:54] Venicia L. Santana: Again, I attend Cal Poly Pomona. Our social media on Instagram is going to be @CPPCareCenter, and you're going to find everything CalFresh Healthy Living, and CalFresh on there. On Instagram @CPPCareCenter.

[00:29:08] Vincent Lopez: My name is Vincent Lopez. I am the CalFresh Shelter Living Trainer at Cal State Long Beach, and our Instagram account is CFHL_CSULB.

[00:29:19] Carlos Alessandrini: Giselle, Venicia, and Vincent, thank you so much for your time for sharing all these great stories. Hasta la proxima.


[00:29:36] Colby D'Onofrio: Thank you so much for hanging with us today. Do you know a thought leader or someone doing great work in your community? We would love to interview them and we would love to hear from you. Connect with us online at, or email us at [email protected]. We can also be found on Instagram @Leahspantryorg. This podcast is a product of Leah's Pantry made possible by funding from the United States Department of Agriculture and their supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, an equal opportunity provider and employer. Visit for healthy living tips.


Stocking the Pantry invites guests with a wide variety of opinions and perspectives. Guest opinions are their own and do not represent the views of Leah's Pantry.

[00:30:47] [END OF AUDIO]