As a Foodie for as long as I can remember – back to my childhood growing up in Toronto and helping my mother prepare Estonian delcacies, to my first solo flights with Chef Boyardee Pizza kits, and baking raisin bran muffins, I jumped the chance to volunteer as a “chef instructor” with the All Faiths Food Bank’s outreach program, Cooking Matters.
Headed by wonderfully energetic Elyse Burgher from AFFB, these classes were held at Lakeview Elementary School, and were attended by 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders, with the aim of teaching them about making healthy eating choices, and of course some hands on cooking lessons.
Many of the six 2 hour classes focused on a specific area of nutrition, with each having a different “theme” to the cooking aspect.
The enthusiam of the kids participating was outstanding! Right after their P.A. dismissal from classes they would stream into our room, and make a bee line to see what we would be preparing that day.
After settling in, Elyse would outline the day’s program with either a quiz show game, or some food themed physical activity (no, not a food fight).
Next up was our volunteer nutritionist extrordinaire, Lois Lewis, who kept the children riveted in understanding the food groups, and their importance in a healthy daily diet.
My turn was the easy part. We stressed the importance of washing hands before beginning prep, and on to proper knife technique (with a shout out to Krystina Muller of Sharper Than New professional blade sharpening for equipping us with the “edge” we needed), we then reviewed in detail each of the recipes chosen for that day and discussed the areas of what, and how to cut, chop, measure, mix, and assemble the menu. No lessons on how to eat them were necessary!
Keeping things moving were our tireless assistants Nancy Cappadora, and Shirley DeJean, as well as Lakeview’s own Guidance Counselor, Sally Hritz.
After each class the students were also given a “goodie bag” containing all the ingredients from one of that day’s recipes to take home and (hopefully) prepare for Mom and Dad.
At the last session, each child was allowed to invite a Mom, or Dad, or both, and prepare a meal for them, as well as dazzle them with their new found culinary knowledge, ending with a diploma ceremony for these remarkable graduates of the program.
While the smiles and excitement of the students was immensly gratifying, and there were many moments that made this such a personally gratifying experience, there was one in particular that stood out for me. At the end of a class, one of the boys came up to high-five me. My hands were wet and soapy while washing up, so I told him I wouldn’t want to get him wet. His response? “Can I give you a hug then?”
Kids . . . Priceless.