Two chapters of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Spokane County are spending lots of time at Second Harvest’s mobile Kitchen this year. A grant from Empire Health Foundation is funding two quarters of classes for elementary kids and two for middle and high-school students. Hands-on cooking sessions will include recipe demonstrations and sharing, food sampling and healthy food preparation activities. A final session each quarter includes a field trip to The Kitchen at Second Harvest.
Currently, one in four children in Spokane County is food-insecure – in other words, they don’t know where their next meal is coming from, and may regularly experience hunger or not get enough to eat. Studies show helping kids learn how to cook can help them eat healthier and reduce trips to the doctor later in life.
“Our clubs provide an excellent opportunity to equip some of our community’s most at-risk children with basic scratch cooking skills,” said Tamara Korth, director of program operations at Boys and Girls Clubs. “Second Harvest piloted similar classes at our two clubs last winter and we were thrilled with the results.”
Bringing classes to the students is key, as accessibility is one of the top barriers people say keeps them from using vital services.
“The biggest road block for a lot of people is getting here,” said Alicia Hughes, who works with Second Harvest in the AmeriCorps program and implements many nutrition education efforts, including the classes at the Boys and Girls Club. “A lot of people say, ‘That’s great, but I can’t get there.’”
Second Harvest works with groups of all ages to help them access services they need – recently STA’s Mobility Mentors group, which helps seniors and people with disabilities ride the bus, visited Second Harvest for a cooking class. Students and parents access Mobile Food Banks on-site at schools and via school food pantries, and several senior apartment complexes work with Second Harvest to put on senior farmers markets and mini produce food banks on site.
A new direction
To address the issues facing today’s kids, nutrition educators at Second Harvest are turning to evidence-based curriculum from Cornell University’s Division of Nutritional Sciences, called Choose Health: Food, Fun and Fitness, or CHFFF, an award-winning lesson set geared for kids ages 8 to 12. CHFFF is spearheaded by Mindy Wallis, nutrition education manager with Second Harvest, who joined the nutrition team in 2016. Wallis also supervises Second Harvest’s Washington Service Corps team and the school Mobile Food Bank program. CHFFF lessons include food preparation, interactive games, goal-setting challenges and help navigating food labels.
A family affair
Families show up for Kitchen classes too. Crystal Cooper was searching for a local food bank online when she ran across the listing for cooking classes at The Kitchen at Second Harvest. Cooper grew up learning to cook, and wants to pass on the skill to her sons, now 15 and 16.
“I’ve always loved cooking,” Cooper said. “It’s just something I wanted to show my kids.” The family of four is currently homeless, living in an RV while they wait to be approved for a studio apartment in Spokane.
“It became a family night for us – something to get away from our housing situation,” she said. “Something normal. As a mom this class has helped us more than you know. And we get to spend time with the kids and with some food without draining our wallet more.”