In the fall of 2014, I started a cooking group for youth clients in the Niagara Region. There are currently 4 members of the group between the ages of 11-17, as well as 3 volunteers who regularly attend to support the kids. The group meets one Saturday a month in the Niagara office. The kids in the group choose a different meal each month to cook; they have made everything from homemade chicken fingers, tacos, hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, wraps, cupcakes and rice krispies, just to name a few examples.
When the group started, many of the kids did not have basic kitchen skills beyond pouring. Some of the skills we have focused on in the group include measuring, mixing, spreading, and cutting. The kids have also started to gain more confidence using the stove top and oven. The group arose as a need was identified in the Niagara region to help youth clients with developing these skills. We identified the kids in the cooking group through their participation in the Niagara SCORE summer camp.
Prior to the cooking group, I had been working with some of the kids in their homes after school on these cooking skills. I observed that the kids found our lessons tiring being after school, and that the lesson felt like work; the kids would often lose their enthusiasm and interest. Since being in the Saturday cooking group, the kids have found learning cooking skills much more enjoyable. Instead of being tired after school, the kids are more alert on Saturday mornings, and they get a social experience being in a group setting and are able to learn from and help each other. The cooking group has provided a learning experience which the kids are more receptive too.
This past December, after a year of attending the cooking group, we invited the kids' parents to attend a Holiday Luncheon that the kids would prepare. The kids chose the menu: macaroni and cheese, crescent rolls, Caesar salad, and rice krispie squares for dessert. The Luncheon was an opportunity for the kids to show-off the new cooking skills they had developed over the year. They were all very proud to show their families what they had learned and were able to accomplish.
Photo: Participants of the cooking group in Niagara region show off their work.