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Published: June 8, 2024

Health Leadership Award: Cooking up Advocacy for At-Risk Youth

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This week, I am grateful to have the opportunity to present the Health Leadership Award to 2011 graduate Alissa Bilfield. She is the co-founder of The Cookbook Project, a non-profit that provides underserved youth with experiential education in food culture, cooking, and sustainability. The organization is growing immensely, and is now gaining international recognition. Alissa even had the opportunity to meet with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” staff in Washington, DC! Her success is an inspiration to all of us striving to create sustainable change.

Listening to Life’s Whispers

I actually heard about IIN six years before I enrolled, at a Kripalu Center yoga retreat. I can remember reading Joshua’s book - hesitantly at first, and then wholeheartedly - realizing that this was it! Working with various food justice organizations in Boston and Oakland, I saw a real need for teaching at-risk youth about healthy eating, cooking, and lifestyle choices. I also had the experience of traveling abroad and witnessing the disturbing extent to which the industrialized food system was being exported. I wanted to formalize my own studies through IIN so that I could help young people around the world to become empowered to be healthy, support their communities and help to safeguard the environment through their everyday food choices.

alissabilfieldA Higher Form of Learning

The distance learning program at IIN is as impactful as that of any university in the world. I attended Vanderbilt University as an undergrad and The London School of Economics for graduate school. My experience at IIN has been, in many ways, the most well-rounded and rich. The lectures were amazing and the whole learning philosophy really resonated with me.

Engaging the Community

I am so excited to be awarded a Health Leadership Award - mostly to help spread the word about The Cookbook Project, the non-profit that I founded, and to help engage other members of the IIN community in this inspiring work! We have established an Online Local Leaders Training Program to recruit IIN alumni and other likeminded local leaders to teach the youth in their own communities. We just finished running the pilot program, and we are very excited to continue to involve IIN students and alumni from all over the U.S. and around the world.

alissabilfieldgroupFrom Local to Global

My greatest accomplishment was meeting with Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” staff in Washington DC and hearing their excitement about The Cookbook Project’s Local Leaders Program. Being able to partner with organizations, like Health Corps domestically and Peace Corps internationally, to spread our unique curriculum has also been a major achievement.

Advice for Future Health Leaders

Join our Local Leaders Training! Applications for 2013 will be available in October. Also, remember to be very flexible and open-minded.

If you are interested in supporting Alissa’s work, you can also attend her fundraiser in New York City on June 26. The event will take place at the Scavolini Kitchen Gallery in SoHo from 6-9 pm, and will feature international food culture kitchens with drinks, a silent auction and interactive Cookbook Project activities. Register here!

Learn more about Alissa and her work with The Cookbook Project by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.

We announce Health Leadership Awards of up to $5000 to outstanding graduates which motivate and IINspire our community. 


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