Cooking at the Cookshop

After my older son saw the movie Ratatouille with its tiny perfect chef a few years ago, he began a cooking phase. We had all sorts of interesting and creative hors d’oeuvres served to us—crackers with cream cheese and cucumber drizzled with honey was one I recall with particular fondness. Unfortunately, it lasted all of about a week. Both boys like to bake with me but making non-sweet food doesn’t seem to interest them much. Next year, we’re planning to have our older son pack his own lunch for school — so maybe he’ll find his inner chef once again.

I was reminded of this reading about the Food Bank for New York City’s very cool CookShop Classroom program.

If you ask most kids living in New York City where their food comes from, the answer is likely to be “the grocery store!” They’re not wrong, of course, but it’s hardly the whole story. That’s where CookShop Classroom comes in.  At classes run by their teachers, some 11,000 kids from the city’s lowest-income neighbourhoods take part in a hands-on program of food discovery, learning how things grow, how farmers tend and harvest their fields, and how they and their families can prepare and eat these fresh foods. Focusing on one new fruit, vegetable or grain—like cabbage or the artichoke—over two weeks, the kids follow it on its journey from field to table, tasting all along the way.

In urban neighbourhoods where fast food restaurants are often a way of life and nearly a quarter of students are obese, where apples and carrots are the only produce many kids see, CookShop is a breath of fresh air. By giving children access to unprocessed whole foods, exposing them to farmers and the pleasures of sharing good food—not to mention introducing cooking skills—they’re learning habits they can hold on to for life.

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