Kids Enjoy a New Kind of Classroom This Summer

School’s out for summer, and many kids have more time on their hands—and less food on their plates. That’s why The Kitchen at Second Harvest is hosting free cooking classes for kids throughout the summer, teaching them how to choose and make healthy foods themselves. And, of course, they have a blast while doing it!

More than half of students in Spokane County schools receive free or reduced-price meals. In the summer, those meals disappear. This leaves parents with 10 more meals to put on the table each week—or perhaps more, if they have several children.

Kids in food insecure families not only have less food in the summer, but also are often responsible for feeding themselves during the day while their parents are at work. But without basic nutrition knowledge and cooking skills, it can be hard to create meals that are both delicious and nutritious.

That’s where The Kitchen steps in. The Kitchen partners with youth-focused programs during the summer to give kids and teens in low-income families both a filling meal that they may have otherwise missed and the tools they need to make healthy meals at home.

Kids and teens from programs such as SPEAR, Express, Summer in The Zone, Transitions women’s shelter, and the summer group at North Central High School for low-income students with mental illness and suicidal ideation are spending time this summer cooking in Second Harvest’s teaching kitchen. During these classes, they make accessible, tasty recipes such as pico de gallo, veggie quesadillas, homemade pizza and zucchini blueberry pancakes. In the process, they learn fundamental cooking skills and basic nutrition lessons, such as why it’s important to eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and how and why to choose whole grains over refined grains.

Jolene, who attended a class with Transitions, was excited to have a new recipe in her wheelhouse to make for herself—veggie quesadillas. As she ate her creation at the end of the class, she said, “I learned how to make a different meal. I normally make grilled cheese.” She was even more excited that this new recipe could incorporate her favorite vegetable—broccoli.

A hands-on cooking experience in The Kitchen was a big hit with the North Central summer group as well. Typically, 10 to 15 students show up to attend their field trips throughout the summer. But on the day they were scheduled to come to The Kitchen, 27 teens showed up. The unusually high attendance was probably due to a combination of genuine excitement for cooking and the reality that it would guarantee lunch at no cost.

After working together to make a meal, the students took home several grocery items. As she placed the groceries in a bag to take home, one student commented that the class came at a perfect time; her grandma had said that morning that she had run out of food to eat.

Want to learn more about what’s cooking in The Kitchen? Go to secondharvestkitchen.org.