Kitchen work is busy work: slicing, dicing, basting, baking, tasting. There is much to learn, including the deliciousness of fresh, natural foods, how to choose the best ingredients, plan nutritional menus and follow recipes correctly. Learning to cook is an essential skill, but also stands as a metaphor for life - developing skills, planning, proper implementation...and living a healthy life. The Children's Aid Society knows the recipe for teaching the fundamentals of cooking and nutrition, and we take part in several culinary educational programs. "Fun Food, Smart Food" is a 12-week cooking and nutrition program for middle school-age youth (grades 5-8) empowering young people to learn cooking skills, develop a passion for healthful food and to benefit from healthful food choices. After-school classes, which meet at sites in Brooklyn and Harlem, help students learn hands-on cooking and nutrition lessons. Utilizing fresh, healthful foods is the goal, and field trips to local greenmarkets and farms reinforce classroom work. Fresh Direct and Baby Buggy donate food to the program, which is a collaboration of the Department of Youth and Community Development and The Children's Aid Society, in partnership with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, Department of Parks & Recreation, and Office of the Food Policy Coordinator. The program is scheduled to expand in fall 2009 to the South Bronx and Jamaica.
The Children's Aid Society has also teamed up with the Food Network and Share Our Strength® with the opening of the first Good Food Garden in New York City at the Dunlevy Milbank Center in Harlem. Share our Strength tells us that one out of six kids in America is at risk of going hungry. Good Food Gardens is a multigenerational learning opportunity, with toddlers, teens and seniors working side by side to grow vegetables, fruits and flowers. The produce is used in The Children's Aid Society's Go!Chefs program, which makes healthy cooking and eating both fun and accessible for young people, ages two through 21. (You're never too young to learn prepare and enjoy "real food"). Take a tour with this blogger here. We'll look at all the Go!Chef programs, including the Go!Kids early childhood obesity prevention program, in more detail in a future blog. Feed the body, feed the mind!
Photos Courtesy of Lily Kesselman