The Chef And Child Program Puts Kids In The Kitchen

The Chef And Child Program Puts Kids In The Kitchen

Thu 18 Aug 2011

Story by Paul Stroup

The local chapter of the American Culinary Federation known as the Heart of Illinois Chef’s Association saw the need for child nutrition awareness in our surrounding communities and found a way to take our creative passion for food and pass it on to the next generation.

The mission is “to facilitate a youth cooking team that emphasizes nutrition awareness, food safety, cultural diversity, team building, basic culinary skills and self-esteem. These children are getting the opportunity to experience themselves as special, creative human beings capable of nourishing themselves and others through food and making wise food choices for a lifetime of good health.”

This inspired us to launch the proven Chef and Child program to teach kids about fresh cooking with great recipes, and educate them on how to make healthy food choices and so we started the program this summer with several of the children in our area. We saw the excitement in the children’s faces from day one as we took the mystery out of fixing healthy nutritious meals. The youngsters were very eager to come back the next day, but unfortunately the classes are only once a week!

This 10 week class focuses on food from around the world from Italian to Native American. We are living out the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF) Chef and Child mission statement which is “To educate children and families in understanding proper nutrition through community-based initiatives led by American Culinary Federation chef members, and to be the voice of the culinary industry in its fight against childhood hunger, malnutrition and obesity.”

Part of the culinary experience was our field trip to the local farmers market where we picked out fresh ingredients for our recipes. It was an eye opening experience for the kids and the accompanying adults. Once of the adults said “I will have to come here more often.” One of the vendor’s sign read “Know where your food comes from.” A great motto for our class.

Our classes have had 100% attendance for the whole program and we have witnessed the children come out of their shells and become more comfortable in the kitchen and with each other. One Child exclaimed “I love cooking and I even cooked breakfast for my family”.

Whilst our chefs association (Heart of Illinois Chefs Association) is sponsoring the program, we are planning on doing some fundraising in the fall. We are also planning some events in the area for National Child Nutrition Day on October 16th.

There is no doubt that this program is making a huge difference in the lives of these kids. We have had local guest chefs come invest their time, talent and cook with this group which has enriched the children’s experience all the more. We start the afternoon with question and answer time and have the kids share what healthy choices they are learning, then we move to the kitchen divide into two groups and start cooking. Within two hours we have a full meal to share with each other.

We are investing in the lives of young future chefs who will at the very least get the tools they need to succeed in cooking healthy, nutritious meals. Having chefs invest in the lives of these young students is having an impact far greater than we can measure in the short time we spend with them.

About the Author: Paul Stroup is the chair for the Chef and Child Foundation for his local chapter and launched Chef and Child summer program, he has also started a culinary school for the homeless and has had two classes graduate so far.


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