After coming home from Brazil, Irene was demonstrating solar cookers at a local farmer’s market when she met some people from the Resource Connection/Calaveras Food Bank. Homeless people coming to their local food banks, they told her, had no way to cook food. As a result they would sometimes throw away valuable food, such as rice.
The result was a program to start training the people working with those in need in how to use and build solar cookers.
The project has now trained 12 trainers and assisted 5,484 families in their local region.
Here is where it all started, in Calaveras County.
Aside from the solar cookers, local residents were trained in how to build and use a rocket stove. Also known as the Winiarski stove, a rocket stove is made of an empty 5 gallon paint drum, or built with bricks and mud. It does not generate smoke like traditional wood fires, is very fuel efficient (can boil water, literally using twigs as fuel, in 15 minutes), and can be used at night or on rainy days
Haybaskets, which you will also see here, are fireless cookers. An ancient model heat retainer made of a basket or cardboard box lined with insulating material such as hay, crumpled newspaper, rags, etc., the haybasket finishes cooking partially cooked food from the Rocket Stove, or keeps food warm after the sun has gone down.
Irene is intimately familiar with both. Her family and neighbors often used them during World War II to serve the family meals.