Operation Frontline: 101

By:  Sara O’Neill, OFL Volunteer Chef

Volunteering for the first time in an Operation Frontline class can be a little intimidating. After serving as a chef in several classes, I have become comfortable teaching and interacting with participants, as well as fellow volunteers.

serving mini pizzas

Here are a few things I have found that can help lead to a successful class:

  1. Be willing to open up to the participants in the class.

You can share enough about your life without having to air your dirty laundry. More than likely you will have something in common with each person in a class. In down times, talk about work, your family and your personal interests. Although you don’t want to lose focus on the intentions of the class, this can be helpful if the first couple classes seem to be a bit too quiet.

2.   Let participants see that you know what you’re talking about, but that you’re still a human.

 I always like to let the classes know about my cooking successes in the kitchen, but I also let them know I’ve botched my fair share of recipes.  It can be frustrating to have failures when first starting out in one’s own kitchen, so reassurance can help participants gain confidence to keep trying. When nutritionists share that they aren’t always “perfect” eaters, participants can also see that healthy eating is a work in progress.

3.   Interrupting (done politely of course) can be a good thing.

When fellow instructors are able to jump in with additional comments and questions during teaching time, it can benefit the class in a couple of ways. First, it keeps the participants more alert to hear different voices.  In kids’ classes, this can be helpful during the nutrition lessons, as the kids often seem to get distracted during these times. Second, it shows that instructors are working as a team and paying attention even when they are not leading the class.

4.   Have a game plan, but don’t be surprised if it changes.

 In my classes, we always started with a timeframe for accomplishing tasks. Rarely things seemed to go exactly as planned, but I would consider every class I was at to be a success. We always managed to learn our nutrition lesson and cook something tasty, and have a good time doing it. Just be willing to adapt to surprises that come your way.


Whether you’re teaching kids, teens or adults, keep these hints in mind if your class, or your confidence, seems to need a little boost.