The Kids Cook Monday
Published in Inside - Volume XVI, No. 5
Some neighbors come to TC for fennel salad and smoothies
By Suzanne Guillette
Teaching kids about healthy eating is great, but to really change behavior, you’ve got to get parents involved, too.
That was the premise behind “The Kids Cook Monday,” a series of six evenings this past fall that brought elementary school students from Harlem-area schools and their parents to TC’s Earth Friends Lab to cook up vegan bean burgers, sweet potato fries, power smoothies, guacamole and apple fennel salad and other wholesome fare. Two groups of families participated for three consecutive Mondays.
The series -- a partnership between EarthFriends, an outreach program at TC’s Center for Food and Environment, the Healthy Monday Campaigns, and the Harlem Health Promotion Center at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health – provided the participants with a unique opportunity to learn about healthy eating and cooking principles in a fun, exploratory environment.
Approximately 30 participants attended each of the sessions, which were overseen by Pamela Koch, Executive Director of the Center for Food and Environment, and a handful of TC master’s degree students. Each night began with Koch listing the “rules,” which included “wash your hands for 20 seconds (or, as long as it takes to say your ABC’s)”; “listen with your eyes and ears;” and staying positive, even if the food doesn’t sound appetizing. “If there’s something you don’t want to try, don’t say it out loud,” said Koch.
On the last night in December, kids and parents alike donned green aprons and chef hats with their names across the front. In preparation for the meal, Kianna, a fifth grader, stood before a bowl of black beans, struggling to mix them into a paste for the burgers, as her mother, Karen stepped in to show her how to hold the spoon. “My daughter already helps me a lot at home with the cooking, but coming here has been a lot of fun,” Karen said. “We get to try new recipes.”
Once the food was ready, the kids eagerly volunteered to serve it. Mike Hernandez, community outreach manager for the Healthy Monday Campaigns affiliated with the Harlem Health Promotion Center, said their enthusiasm has helped change their parents’ minds about their cooking capabilities. “In the first group, one of the parents said, ‘I can’t let my kid cook—it would take forever!’ but after, the same parent said, ‘My kid is welcome in my kitchen anytime.’”
The real proof of concept came when it was time to serve up power smoothies made with spinach and blueberries went over very well. Asked if the purple drink , needed sugar, Kandi, one of the young students, responded with an emphatic “No!”
She took a second sip, then volunteered: “Even though it’s got spinach in it, it’s good!”
To view a video of the series, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYjc5vSJCrY. For more information on the series, visit www.GetHealthyHarlem.org.