How do you describe the smell of pumpkin pie?
According to six-year-old Toe Toe Moo, “It’s the smell of sensation.”
Moo, along with his sister Kaw and a few others, are making mini pumpkin pies during the Cooking Club at Spence Neighbourhood Association’s (SNA) Building Belonging program.
Johny Merasty, 11, is excited to learn how to make the pies so he can replicate the recipe at home.
“[I want to] make them for my mom,” he says.
The kids choose the recipes they make at Cooking Club and favourites include chocolate avocado pudding, smoothies, and zucchini crisp made with zucchini the kids grew themselves, in nearby community gardens.
Between 40 and 60 children from six to 12 years old come daily to Building Belonging, held at the Magnusson Eliason Recreation Centre on Langside Street. A teen program serving an additional 30 to 60 young people runs directly after Building Belonging, as well as on weekends.
The goal of the programs is to build a sense of belonging and ownership among neighbourhood kids by developing relationships with local volunteers, businesses and organizations. Kids get safe walks from school and back home, a healthy meal, and a variety of activities and outings. A grant from The Winnipeg Foundation’s Nourishing Potential Fund helps SNA purchase healthy food, kitchen equipment and food training for staff.
The daily healthy meal is a highlight for many. Taco salad is an all-time favourite and staff and volunteers make it even healthier by substituting half the ground beef in the recipe with kidney beans.
“I wasn’t sure how it would work out, but the kids actually liked it!” coordinator Amy Cundall says of the healthier recipe.
SNA wasn’t always able to offer a healthy snack, and staff often scrounged to find food to fill hungry bellies.
“We were going out on the outings and the kids would say ‘I’m really hungry,’ and their behaviour would be affected by how hungry they were after school,” says coordinator Allison Besel.
The Nourishing Potential grant has helped the kids enjoy healthy eating, including fruits and veggies, every day.
Getting kids to try new foods has been a process, but the more they’re exposed to healthy options, the more likely they are to eat it and to know how to prepare it, Besel says.
Many area residents use food banks and donated food often takes a lot of creativity to use, she explains. For example, SNA staff recently ended up with a huge bunch of kale that other groups refused to take because they didn’t know how to use it. SNA staff and participants made kale chips, and everyone loved them.
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 first published in Community News Commons on November 13, 2013.