On November 12 a group of twelve teens completed the six-week Cooking Matters for Teens program. The group met every Wednesday for six weeks to learn about making nutritious meal choices and how to prepare healthy recipes. All of the participants were teens who are in foster care and who will soon be aging out of the system. Their case managers were eager for them to learn skills to help them make healthy choices once they are living on their own.
Each session of the course included an hour-long nutrition lesson followed by an hour-long cooking lesson in which the participants worked together to prepare 3-4 recipes. At the end of the course participants received a certificate, a book with nutrition information and recipes, and prizes like oven mitts and aprons.
Credit for the success of this course goes to Master Food Volunteer Nancy Broff. Nancy heard about a similar course that we did two years ago and wanted to repeat it. She contacted the woman in charge of educational programs for foster care teens at Arlington County’s Department of Human Services and told her that she was interested in organizing this course. After learning that there was no money available through either the county or Extension to purchase food for the classes she solicited donations from six different grocery stores so that there would be enough food for each class. Nancy approached the stores on her own and drove to them each week to pick up the ingredients. She organized the lesson plans, led the instruction, selected recipes to prepare, and arranged all the details for the course. The course would not have happened without Nancy’s dedication and commitment.
Participants indicated that the course taught them a great deal. One teen commented: “I learned to be more healthy in my eating habits and I learned a lot of information that was useful.” Another said “This class has taught me basics about cooking and what to know about food. I learned how to cook some foods and how to make healthier meals.”
Many other Master Food Volunteers came out to help with the cooking and instruction each week. Thanks to Brigitte Coulton, Maiko Daizen, Andrea Durkin, Barbara Gomez, Jeanne Lewis, Katie Potestio, Aisha Salazar, and Sharon Simkin for all of their support. Thanks also to Share Our Strength, creator of the Cooking Matters program and provider of the books used in the course.