US Food Security - Through Cooking Classes for Kids?

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A cooking class and food security? Cooking classes might seem to be a frou-frou addition to an upscale household. But take a closer look, and you will realize that food preparation is an essential life skill, and definitely not a frill. Those who don’t cook depend on the nutritional content of takeout, pre-made and restaurant food. It’s a loss of food autonomy, which is a loss of food security. Something as basic as baking bread or cooking up a fall soup is a powerful contribution to a family’s ability to sustain itself in a healthy manner.

North Americans are gradually losing our ability to cook. More specifically, we’re losing our ability to preserve foods, because we haven’t grown up watching our parents can, freeze, ferment, and dry the harvest for the winter season. We’re also losing our interest in cooking. With a plethora of available restaurants in almost every neighborhood, many of which seem to boast prices that are so much cheaper than what you could create from scratch, why would people bother? Lives are busy, the children need to go to soccer practice, and people are tired from a hectic work day. Making food and eating food get placed on the back burner, and there they stay, slowly simmering until they eventually start to disappear.

This means that the children of this generation are growing up without a sense of how to bake, preserve food, or even throw together a simple dinner. While restaurants are lovely places to visit, if we want to eat food that comes from whole, local and sustainable foods, we need to learn how to cook. This whole food tends to be cheaper than boxed food or restaurant food, contributing to family food security. It also contributes to health: families can choose the fat and salt content of this food to a much greater degree than at a restaurant.

What’s the solution to create a generation that is food savvy and food secure? Organizations that focus on local food security and organizations that focus on community building are seeing the trend and seeing the need. They’re organizing free or low-cost cooking classes for families. In Arapahoe, even the library has gotten its hands into the cooking scene by offering a series of free cooking classes for children. New companies are also springing up that focus on children and cooking. Restaurants offer some of these classes, and some like the Young Chef’s Academy are completely focused on education.

This summer, the Washington DC-based group Share Our Strength offered free cooking classes for lower-income families. Operation Frontline takes a direct approach to increasing nutrition, connecting families with nutritionists, chefs, and most importantly, nutritious groceries to facilitate healthy cooking.

Is cooking out? Maybe right now, but with the rise of cooking classes, the future of cooking could still be secure, local, and delicious.

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