The Indy Hunger Network is teaching children to cook healthy meals on a budget. Several kids in a far east side food desert participated in the program, Cooking Matters For Kids.
The nonprofit started teaching Cooking Matters classes to food insecure adults in 2015, and this was its first course for children. It wrapped up at Carriage House East Apartments, where more than half of the units in the complex are subsidized.
Cooking Matters was developed by Washington D.C. anti-hunger nonprofit Share Our Strength, which has a goal of ending childhood hunger.
Through the Indy Hunger Network, Americorps VISTA’s Megan Songer organized the local classes.
“We printed off a whole bunch of menus from different restaurants like Steak’n’Shake and Panda Express and then we had them compare – decide what they would eat,” she says. “We also looked at ways that they could alter what they eat to make it healthier.”
Songer says, for one meal, they made baked, flaked chicken with sweet potato fries.
“They didn’t know that you could have chicken that wasn’t fried – but baked - but that had the same flavor in an essence but without the grease,” she says.
Culinary instructor Theresa Thompson worked with the kids on knife handling skills – and taught them the differences between mincing, dicing and chopping. She says nutrition is also paramount.
“We’re introducing them to different types of vegetables and fruits. Like, the rainbow concept – the more color you have on your plate the healthier,” Thompson says.
Groceries were provided for each class and each child took home recipe ingredients so they could make the same meals at home to share with their families.
Songer says the goal for the first course for children was to recruit at least six kids – three from School 103 and three from Carriage House East. Then, as peers, have them teach the next Cooking Matters For Kids. They’re still working on the logistics for that class.