Nick's Picks: Torin Washington & Abundance Co-Op

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Nicholas Abreu

Torin Washington is a mechanical engineer by trade and community outreach specialist by passion. Currently the marketing and community contact at Abundance Food Co-op, and formerly the director of the emergency food cupboard at the Cavalry St. Andrews Parish, Washington’s path to a position of charity and outreach happened by chance.

Years ago, Washington saw a neighbor working in her garden and offered a helping hand. Through some small talk, Washington found out that his neighbor was a volunteer at the emergency food cupboard at St. Andrews. With an invite, Washington showed up for his first volunteer experience at the parish. He volunteered once a week, then three times a week, and eventually became a permanent volunteer, while still consulting as a mechanical engineer.

Because of Washington’s office experience and passion for charity, he quickly became the assistant director of the emergency food cupboard, and soon after, the director.

Under Washington’s leadership, the food cupboard repealed area code restrictions and began feeding more people than ever before.

While in a directing position, Washington also developed an intimate knowledge of the South Wedge neighborhood, and sought more community activism by contacting different diversity groups and promoting outreach programs.

After more than five years with St. Andrew’s, differences between the church and food ministry left Washington looking for a new organization to get involved with. Chance again played a role in his next step.

Washington’s partner at St. Andrew’s, Barbara Mitchell, was a shareholder at Abundance Food Co-Op and recommended him for his current position. This natural foods market at 571 South Avenue is owned by more than 2,500 local shareholders. Each department at Abundance, from produce and meat, to frozen food and dairy, is packed with fresh, healthy, often local products. Given Washington’s community values and devotion to a clean, vegetarian lifestyle, this was a perfect fit.

Since joining Abundance, one of Washington’s main accomplishments has been creating a dining room and community meeting place that highlights local arts, spoken word, music, and photography.

Washington’s next project for Abundance is creating community cooking classes that are held by shareholders, restaurant owners, local farmers, refugee programs, and diversity groups in the area.

By teaching proper food education and sharing recipes, history, and culture from the many ethnic groups in Rochester, Washington aims to build a healthier, more accepting community.

Classes will be open to the public and held monthly. Once classes are up and running, Washington envisions Abundance working with the Rochester public market, the South Wedge public market, and bringing in well-known food trucks to teach classes.

Based on Washington’s track record, these visions will soon become a reality.

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