4StCharlesCMOct2014 Youth in Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, and Northeast Denver have been improving their healthy cooking skills through Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters for Teens class at St. Charles and Stapleton Recreation Centers. Cooking Matters Colorado is a partner in the GSK IMPACT Grant and a member of the Youth Driven Healthy Recreation Centers Collective Steering Committee, and contributes to

At St. Charles Recreation Center, youth have been excited to learn kitchen skills: Everything from peeling, mincing, grating, chopping, and even opening cans – they love it all. While making Tuna Boats, the youth talked about whether cucumber seeds are edible (of course they are!) and whether the kids liked tuna or not. Even if a youth didn’t like tuna, they were reminded of one of Cooking Matter’s mantras: “Don’t Yuck My Yum,” meaning don’t make a big deal out of not liking something in case someone else does. Teens also bring recipes home to share with their families. A popular recipe with many of the youth’s 2StCharlesCMOct2014families are the Cucumber Sammies (Sandwich)—layering cheese, turkey, and cucumber slices—a budget-friendly and healthy snack.

As part of the class, youth also learn how to shop for healthy foods on a budget. Cooking Matters instructors bring laminated photos of different food items with prices listed and have the young people play a game called “Can We Get It”. The goal of the game is to look for the best quality along with the best price for unit. For example, the kids would choose to purchase peaches, but had to choose which brand they could get and what type of product: canned, fresh, personal sized containers, or larger containers. They then compared the differences between nutritional information and prices.

At Stapleton Recreation Center, the Cooking Matters for Teens held an “Extreme Makeover” cooking challenge during the last class of the six week course. The class was split into two groups where each 3StCharlesCMOct2014group chose two recipes to “makeover” or make healthier.

The first group, The Gummy Bears, chose a Chinese chicken dish and chocolate banana pudding. The teens added extra vegetables to the stir fry and replaced sugar with honey in the pudding. The second group, Las Cookers, chose smoothies and mozzarella sticks. This group blended a variety of fruits into the smoothies and used non-fat plain yogurt; the mozzarella sticks were baked instead of fried. Both groups were given all of the cooking materials, recipes, and ingredients needed to complete their dishes. The class volunteers and instructor were available for questions, but the teens completed all of the cooking in the separate groups.

Asked about the impact Cooking Matters has had on their lives, the teens said:

1StCharlesCMOct2014“It affected my life by learning how to cook.”

“I have started to make healthy choices when I go to the store and actually understand what nutrition labels really offer me.”

“This course affected my life by helping me choose more healthier foods and how to make a healthier meal.”

“We will try to eat more grains, even more vegetables!!!”

“It has made me a better cook, and a healthier cook as well.”