Volunteer of the Month: Benjamin Lei

March 28, 2024

Photo of Benjamin Lei, Foodwise volunteer

Foodwise relies on volunteers and interns to help with education programs, and other activities that help fulfill our mission to grow thriving communities through the power and joy of local food. Learn more about internships here and volunteer opportunities here. You can also sign up for our next volunteer orientation on June 8, 2024, here.

Since October 2023, community-minded Benjamin Lei has been a regular volunteer with Foodwise’s cooking demos, sharing the joy of creating dishes with seasonal produce. He has also lent a hand with our annual Sunday Supper fundraiser.

“Ben has been a great help during our cooking demos and always eager to dive in to learn new skills in the kitchen. He’s helped make dough, roll out cookies, and it’s great that he’s able to dedicate his time to support our farmers market programs,” says Education Director Tiffany Chung.  

Meet Ben.

Foodwise: Where does your food interest come from?

Ben: My interest initially came from lots of Saturday afternoons on PBS watching cooking shows and being inspired to cook when I was younger. These days I still love cooking, but I also love learning about new ingredients and techniques to make healthy delicious meals that don’t break the bank.

Foodwise: What do you do when you aren’t volunteering for Foodwise?

Ben: These days I’ve been engrossed with biking! I’ve found that I really enjoy long bike rides, group rides, and have been itching to try out bikepacking/camping. In lieu of this, I’ve started volunteering at my local coop bike shop, and for Bike East Bay. It’s been really fun and rewarding to mingle with my cycling community.

Foodwise: Why did you choose to volunteer with us at this time?

Ben: I’ve been wanting to support my local community in a way that matters to me and is fun. I still remember being just another passerby at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market last summer and being absolutely amazed by scallop salad I had, and the fact that these cooking demonstrations existed and that they were run by volunteers. I knew at that moment that I wanted to volunteer and signed up shortly afterward.

Foodwise: What has been most rewarding about your experience with Foodwise?

Ben: For me, that would be seeing all the people who stop by and sit down to learn from whoever is cooking that day. It’s great to know that there are people who appreciate the knowledge that’s being shared and who walk away learning something they didn’t know before. 

Foodwise: What does Foodwise mean to you?

Ben: It means being intentional about what we eat, and that includes how it’s made, where it comes from and what kind of world we want to live in. Being Foodwise to me means that I’m choosing food that’s local, seasonal, fresh, whole, and sustainable, i.e. not processed!

Foodwise: Any favorite farmers market foods or home meal prep tips you want to share?

Ben: Something I’ve been learning from Dave Chang recently – the microwave is amazing for almost everything (think instant steamer). And, I now use my freezer like a pantry (tons of different frozen veggies that I can microwave for instant steamed veggies). I found that I can actually make meals in minutes and without fuss when I utilize my microwave.

Photo of Foodwise volunteers and farmers market seller Audrey Hitchcock preparing food samples.