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March 21, 2016

Healing with Family: Chef Matt Steiner Says Food & Friends Helped His Stroke Recovery

Chef Matt Steiner walks back and forth at a brisk pace through the kitchen and Expediting (the area where meals are packaged and prepared for home delivery). It’s been a busy day at Food & Friends and he’s wrapping up the last of the day’s volunteers.

Anyone who sees him today would have no idea that, just five years ago, Matt was re-learning how to walk and regain many of his motor skills after a major stroke.
Chef Matt Steiner in the Food & Friends kitchen

“In June of 2011, I had a major stroke,” said Matt. “I had to have open heart surgery and I had a large part of the muscle from my right leg removed. Between the surgeries and physical therapy, I was in the hospital for about six to seven weeks. I also found out during this time that I’m HIV-positive.”

Matt had to start over on a number of fronts. He had to learn to walk again. He couldn’t drive. His speech and other motor skills were impaired.

“I still have a slight stutter,” said Matt. “It’s not as bad here. I’m more comfortable speaking here so it doesn’t bother me as much.”

As part of his recovery, Matt decided to be a volunteer chef at Food & Friends.

“My mom found Food & Friends,” said Matt. “It was her idea to volunteer here to get me out of the house and be more active. If it hadn’t been for her, I would probably be a client of Food & Friends today.”

Matt started on Friday shifts with his mom and his daughter. The short shifts he started with allowed him to walk around and rehabilitate his leg. He also found a welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that would help to quicken his recovery.

“It really is like a family here,” said Matt. “I knew, working as a chef in other places, that I would never find this atmosphere anywhere else. Everyone, from the staff to the volunteers, is so friendly and supportive. And there is much less stress here than I’ve found working in restaurants. It really was ideal for me.”

Matt was hired as on-call chef in September of 2014. One year later, he was hired full time. But this job means more to him than just a paycheck.

“I would do this job even without pay,” said Matt. “Doing what I do means a lot to me. I have friends who are clients and friends who are volunteers so I take this job personally.”

It’s been a long road to recovery for Matt. And he credits Food & Friends with helping him recover faster.

“My recovery would have been a lot slower without Food & Friends,” said Matt. “Being here, getting to walk around a lot, interacting with different people and different personalities, and how nice everyone is – that made a big difference in my recovery.”

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