by Allen Martin and Jennifer Mistrot
SAN GERONIMO (KPIX 5) — Guests at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center recently enjoyed a very special meal. Marin County teens Chiara Savage Schwartz and Lilah Parker prepared the dish using ingredients sourced from the Center’s free food bank.
On the menu was a fragrant rice pilaf paired with veggies and chicken. But the real reveal is not what was in the pots simmering on the stove, but how the dish was actually cooked. Lilah and Chiara presented that information to the hungry lunch crowd, a group of locals, some of whom are low income and rely on the Center for food assistance.
“We’re here to talk to you all today about an eco-friendly cooking tool called the Wonderbag,” explained Savage Schwartz.
Wonderbags are non-electric slow-cookers that rely on heat retention for cooking. Pots are brought to a boil on a stove then moved into the bag where they sit for hours to finish the cooking process. In their first presentation in the Bay Area, the young ladies introduced the bag to those who may need a budget saving cooking tool like Raymond Gutierrez. The retired senior spends his free time fishing and hopes the bag will reduce his meal prep utility usage.
He bought a bag at the event for the reduced cost of just $5 dollars. Normal retail cost is $50.
“I mean, it’s perfect. Perfect for me,” said Gutierrez. “For a single person, it’s perfect.”
The bags can also help reduce the risk of inhaled smoke for those who live where cooking over an open fire is the only option. After seeing open fire cooking on a school trip to South Africa, Lilah and Chiara wanted to find a way to help their new friends. And Wonderbags seemed like a good start.
“Wonderbags are tools to help save time, save resources such as water and fuel,” Parker further explained.
Savage Schwartz agrees.
“Not only saving the environment, saving the wood and other resources you need to use, “explained Savage Schwartz. “But also improving personal health and public health by allowing an easier and simpler way to make simple nutritious meals that can have a big impact in everybody’s lives.”
The girls raised $11,000 dollars through bake sales, then bought 800 Wonderbags to give to South African families. They have also sold the bags at a reduced cost locally to low-income folks in need, like those they served up the hot meal for at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center. And while they enjoyed preparing the meal, for Chiara and Lilah making new friends and helping others is what really feeds their souls.
“I mean it just makes you feel good,” said Park. “From like the inside out.”