As some of you may have heard, Ralph Cooper, also known as our Slow Cooker Chef, passed away on September 27, 2016. Ralph was an inspiration to our organization and came to represent the work we do in SROs in the Tenderloin, SOMA, and Mission neighborhoods.
Ralph was known as the Slow Cooker Chef because he was able to make delicious and nutritious meals in a single crockpot. Many of our slow cooker recipes have been inspired by Ralph. He began working with Leah's Pantry to provide cooking demos to residents living in SROs, educating participants that cooking healthy is possible in small spaces. Ralph proactively scheduled classes, promoted the importance of his work, and even urged social workers to include his classes in their programming because he wholeheartedly believed in the importance of taking an active role with our health. Similar to Leah’s Pantry, Ralph considered cooking a big part of that.
Over the past two years working as a peer educator, Ralph conducted 81 crock-pot demonstrations reaching nearly 400 individuals! This important work could not have been done without the dedication and positive attitude that came so naturally to Ralph. Further, Ralph reached the SRO population in an authentic and effective way; he used his personal experience to truly inspire healthy changes in hundreds of lives.
A few weeks ago, Monica and I were honored to attend a memorial service at Ralph's residence in the Coronado Hotel. Many of his neighbors, case managers, and friends from the neighborhood attended. We heard many stories about Baby Girl, Ralph’s beloved Chihuahua, but we mostly heard about Ralph's character and his desire to make the community a better place. Ralph did this through his crockpot demonstrations with Leah's Pantry but also in his day-to-day actions. Ralph gave extra food to the homeless, swept the sidewalk in front of his building, and acted a peacekeeper between neighbors on the streets.
As one of his neighbors so eloquently said, "Ralph gave a damn about the neighborhood! He didn't complain about the conditions of the community or who was causing trouble outside. He did something about it by cleaning up, cooking food, and creating a space where we all wanted to live."
We miss you Ralph,
Alex and the Leah’s Pantry Staff