Cooking Club is one of the most popular activities for kids attending On the Move daycare’s afterschool program – even if the reasons some choose to take class may not be as innocuous as others’.
“It helps your knowledge of cooking,” says Magnus Kurbis Jacques, a plucky 10-year-old. “And if you’re ever stuck with a girlfriend that doesn’t know how to cook, you have to cook by yourself.”
Cooking Club started as a way to offer additional programming for kids attending the Grant Avenue facility’s afterschool program. More than 150 preschool and school-age children attend On the Move, and many are newcomers and/or from low-income families.
“I asked the kids what kind of clubs they wanted to do, and one of the suggestions was a cooking club,” explains coordinator Tracy McIsaac. “I change [the clubs] up every two or three months, and every time they’ve wanted Cooking Club. It’s always number one on their list.”
It’s not hard to see why. Kids get to make a variety of foods, from healthier versions of pizzas and layered taco dips to pastas, salads and biscuits. They sometimes get to make sweets, too. A grant from The Winnipeg Foundation’s Nourishing Potential program ensures On the Move can purchase healthy ingredients and new kitchen equipment.
Today the Club is making Asian Salad – or what the kids quickly dub ‘Rainbow Salad.’ The salad includes purple cabbage, carrots, bok choy, snap peas, cilantro, crunchy noodles, toasted sesame seeds, and a delicious homemade dressing. McIsaac keeps reminding them not to yell, but every few minutes the sound drifts up a decibel or two.
This exposure to new foods is inspiring kids to expand their palate.
“My mom was trying to get me and my sister to eat more things that we don’t like so I think it will be a different experience,” 11-year-old Avery Miller says of the salad. “It’s important to try new things, so you can expand your taste buds, and you won’t just be stuck to one certain thing.”
Cooking isn’t the only food-related activity these kids do – Gardening Club is also a favourite.
“[Gardening Club is] just such a great learning experience for the kids from the start to the very end,” McIsaac says. “They learn about the seeds, they learn about the soil, they learn about the planting, organizing. There’s so many things that they learn just from planning a little garden.”
The kids use the garden’s harvest in Cooking Club and share it with the entire daycare; in turn everyone gets an understanding of where their food comes from – valuable skills that last a lifetime.
“It teaches healthy habits and it teaches independence too,” McIsaac says. “A lot of these kids, once they leave Grade 6 and they’re in Grade 7 they can go home straight after school, and they’re hungry. Maybe this will teach them to make a better choice for a snack instead of cookies or chips or junk food. That’s my hope is to get them to make a better choice.”
This summer, you can join Jonathan Toews – Nourishing Potential ambassador and donor – and help nourish the potential of Winnipeg kids. You can make a gift online, in person at the Foundation office or any branch of Assiniboine Credit Union or by texting GOAL to 45678.
Nourishing Potential provides grants so kids can access healthy food, nutrition education and cooking skills through after-school, drop-in and summer programs. The Nourishing Potential Fund, targeted to grow to a $5 million endowment, will ensure support for these types of programs is available forever. For more information about Nourishing Potential go to www.wpgfdn.org or call The Winnipeg Foundation at 204-944-9474.
This story was originally published in March 2014.
All photos by Stacy Cardigan Smith