ShelterBox President Launches ‘Cooking through Corona’

Kerri Murray Connects Staying-at-Home Foodies with New Facebook Channel

Kerri Murray makes sushi rolls. | Credit: Courtesy

On a typical day, as president of the nonprofit ShelterBox USA, Kerri Murray is focused on ensuring that people who live in communities ravaged by war and natural disasters have the shelter and household items they need to survive. (See our December 2018 cover story on ShelterBox here.)

But these days, while the Santa Barbara resident is helping her organization adjust to new standards required by the COVID-19 outbreak, she’s a lot like the rest of us: stuck at home, seeking diversions from the ongoing crisis. 

So she started a new Facebook channel called “Cooking through Corona,” in which Murray and guest chefs, such as hometown celebs Leslie Zemeckis and Martin Gore (well, his kids!), lead cooking demos and share recipes online. Recipes so far have included Shelter-at-Home Sushi Rolls, Contagion Cupcakes, and Solitude Soup.

Murray tells us a little more about Cooking through Corona below. Sign up for the channel by visiting

First of all, how has COVID-19 affected ShelterBox’s operations?

Like so many organizations, our work may be even more essential and lifesaving during the Coronavirus pandemic. We are quickly adjusting and incorporating COVID mitigation and safety practices into our global distributions. Our work is even more critical now in places like Syria and in countries with large refugee camps, as many of these already vulnerable areas have severe overcrowding, and the families don’t have the ability to social distance or take the needed hygiene measures. From providing families with separate tents, where the shelters can help refugees self-isolate their families, to our cooking equipment/sleeping mats and supplies, which better enable families to stay healthy we remain committed to reaching displaced families. 

Why did you decide to start Cooking through Corona?

The idea came about because, on the frontlines of crisis situations, we often hear from families how the ShelterBox cooking equipment (which includes stainless steel cook pots and serving plates, bowls, cups, and utensils) we provide brings comfort during uncertainty, that cooking and sharing a hot meal together restores a routine and a sense of normalcy.

That feedback from the field led us to create this Facebook community to unite people, to put aside the panic and politics and connect people around the world through food. With millions of people who are now homebound and working remotely, we wanted to continue to engage our volunteers, supporters, and now new friends, share updates on the work, and bring comfort.

Leslie Zemeckis is one of the guest chefs on ShelterBox’s Cooking Through Corona Facebook channel.

What can participants expect? 

We have been sharing recipes made with grocery items that people are stocking up on in their pantries (beans, rice, pasta), inspiring people by sharing stories about how people are helping each other during the pandemic, celebrating holidays online (like St. Patrick’s Day) where people are used to coming together, and holding Facebook live events to bring people some comfort. 

During many of the events, we are also sharing ShelterBox deployment updates to provide information about our work and ongoing distributions during this time. Several of the recipes that I have shared are made in the actual cook pot that they distribute to beneficiaries around the world.

What is the typical schedule?

Much of the Facebook page is volunteer led by the audience members who have joined the Cooking through Corona community. We have several ShelterBox Response Team Members and Ambassadors from around the world who are actively sharing. Sharing and caring is at the heart of this page, and we want to continue to encourage the content to come from the users. We are posting every day: recipes, video demonstrations, and tips to stay healthy and to stay home.

What have been some highlights so far? 

Our most popular recipe and video is the Friends & Family Fried Rice, sent in from Yvonne Spencer, a member from the Bay Area, whose partner is a healthcare worker on the frontlines of COVID-19 working in the hospital. She has been making meals for her friends who are healthcare workers, who are too exhausted to cook. Already the video has been viewed 6,600 times, and we have received dozens of comments and photos of people across the world who were inspired by the recipe and who have also made the rice dish.

Other popular recipes and page items are: The Quarantini (our take on a martini); Solitude Soup (with versions for vegans and meat lovers); Beans on Toast Video (featuring the daughters of Martin Gore of Depeche Mode and his wife, Kerrilee Gore); and the Pandemic Playlist, which we created to chase away the blues. 

I also dressed up in a green superhero costume for St. Paddy’s Day, sharing a deployment update and making a recipe sent in for Sequestered St. Patrick’s Irish Soda Bread. And Leslie Zemeckis (award-winning actress/writer/documentarian) dressed as Marie Antoinette and shared her special Let Us Eat Pie recipe.

Kerri Murray in her St. Patrick’s Day costume on ShelterBox’s Cooking Through Corona Facebook channel.

What’s coming up?

We have received several requests for an Isolation Chili Global Cook-Off. The winning video and recipe with the most “likes” and “shares” will receive the title and bragging rights. 

What do you expect to become of the community post-virus outbreak? 

We would like to keep the community we have built together but will likely pivot and instead of focusing on easy to prepare meals from pantry items, we would share recipes from locations where we are helping shelter families so people can learn more about our global work.

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