The kids attending Broadway Neighbourhood Centre’s (BNC) Kids Cooking program have excellent taste when it comes to their favourite foods.
“If I could only eat one thing it would be cheese,” says 11-year-old Faye Maloknowles.
“My favourite thing would probably have to be chicken,” says 11-year-old Kasimir Laquette.
Not too long ago, asking these kids about their favourite things to eat would have elicited very different responses.
“At the beginning I wanted to see what they were eating at home so I made them all these dinner plate pictures and said ‘Can you draw me what your favourite meal is and what you eat at home,'” says dietician and program coordinator Ailene Deller. “A lot of it was hot dogs or pizza… pizza pops, things they can fend for themselves with.”
Kids Cooking happens every other Wednesday at BNC, which is located on Young Street in the West Broadway neighbourhood. The program is a joint initiative between BNC and the Good Food Club. Attendees – many of whom come from lower income or newcomer families – get to make a meal from scratch, each class. A Nourishing Potential grant from The Winnipeg Foundation helps the program purchase healthy food, cooking equipment and staff training opportunities.
Lillian Massey is a volunteer with Kids Cooking and knows firsthand how important the food education component is to the program.
“I know because I live in the neighbourhood a lot of the kids eat macaroni and cheese, bologna, [so we show them] some healthier ways of eating food.”
One of the reasons 6-year-old Paige comes to Kids Cooking is so she can try new foods.
“I usually just eat cereal at my home,” she says.
Every meal at Kids Cooking includes fruits and veggies, lean proteins, whole grains and milk products. Favourites amongst the group include quesadillas, stir-frys, wraps, and fruit and yogurt parfaits.
Deller makes a conscious effort to show kids how they can make similar meals at home with only slight variations.
“We’ll show them ‘We do it this way here because we have certain equipment,’ but at home they can take a bowl and an egg and put it in the microwave and scramble it that way, or if your mom’s there you can use a frying pan to make a grilled cheese.”
Staff keep lessons informal and fun, and let the kids learn by doing. This past summer the group went to a farm so they could see firsthand where food comes from. They even got to use some of the farm’s produce in their cooking.
“It was really neat,” Deller says. “The kids got to use some zucchini, onions and carrots in a spaghetti sauce.”
Another illustration of the program’s success? In the beginning it was often a struggle to get kids to include vegetables in their meals, now they often ask for more.
“They say ‘I only have to have two veggies? Can I put four on [my quesadilla]? And I say, ‘Of course you can!'” Deller exclaims.
For more information about Kids Cooking, go to www.thebnc.ca.
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 December 2013.