She sees cooking as a way of serving that comes with an added responsibility — protecting the children who are part of the program. While she pays close attention to fulfilling their nutritional needs, she also makes herself available to the children so they know there is someone looking out for them.
“Taking off my apron and leaving my kitchen doesn’t remove the responsibility I now have,” she says. “If I see a child in need, and I’m outside my work hours, it’s my responsibility to make sure that child receives the kind of support he needs because I am committed to their safety and protection.”
Natividad has made a pointed effort to make herself available. So the children know they are welcome in her kitchen.
“The moment they come in, I want them to feel that they are protected and that I am interested in their lives, their names, their families and their school progress,” she says.
“If they can’t find that at home, they can find it in my kitchen.”
As soon as Natividad walks into the center, children flock toward her, holding up their cups of arroz con leche (Spanish rice pudding) that she made earlier for them, speaking over one another to tell her about their day and how much they liked her food.
Behind the children, mothers make a beeline to greet Natividad and tell her how delicious the kids found the snack.