Kids in the Kitchen program teaches valuable life skills

ELMA, N.Y. (WIVB) – As America deals with alarming rates of childhood obesity and long-term health consequences from that, teaching proper nutrition is critical. A handful of kids in the Southtowns are getting a hands on lesson to set them up for future success.

The group of children, ages nine through 12, meet every week at the Elma Senior Center for a Kids in the Kitchen class, for lessons on everything from reading food labels, to practicing good food safety, to creating nutritionally balanced plates.

“We’ve been learning about grains, we’ve been learning about fruits, vegetables,” 10-year-old Alex Olejniczaka explained.

This week, the kids added protein, creating a menu of chicken wraps, quinoa, corn on the cob, and cauliflower, with a snack of nut butter filled celery sticks.

A professional nutritionist walks the kids through every step of the food prep process as they make their meals and learn their way around the kitchen equipment.

“We need to teach our children how to cook and the nutritional balance, so they can be well prepared individuals,” said Catherine Levulis, administrative assistant for EMPact America of New York, which is partnering with the Food Bank of Western New York to bring these classes to Elma.

“It’s good that we get to be out on the [food prep] table,” Alex Olejniczaka told News 4. “Like maybe some moms don’t like to let you use the knife, but here – ‘oh, I’ll teach you. I’ll teach you how to do that.’ So it’s very fun.”

“I love it!” he added.

Alex’s mom, Tammy, loves how much her ten year old is taking away from the Kids in the Kitchen experience. “I didn’t know anything about it when I first signed up but from day one, my son has done nothing but rave about this class and what he’s learning,” she said. “He loves that they try new recipes, he’s not been afraid to help out in the kitchen. He is actually eating something more healthy instead of the junk food that’s normally available.”

Thanks to these classes, healthier food choices are becoming a higher priority for a lot of these young cooks. “It will make me eat more new fruits and try stuff now,” Cara Sweeney, 10, said.

The kids are able to share the new foods they’re trying with their families and friends, taking food home with them at the end of each class as well as they know-how to make it.

“The younger we can tap in and teach them nutritional balanced meals, the better off we’re going to be,” Levulis said.

EMPact America of New York is already planning to offer more classes in the area next summer, in addition to a long list of community training classes it offers for low or no cost year round.

MORE | Click here for more about EMPact America of New York and its programs.

The Food Bank of Western New York continues to offer Kids in the Kitchen classes out of its Buffalo kitchen to children ages 7-18. The Food Bank partners with a variety of local agencies and organizations for its nutritional education courses.

MORE | Click here for more about the nutrition education programs offered by the Food Bank of Western New York.

Anyone wishing to partner with the Food Bank of Western New York for future classes can reach that group at (716)852-1305.

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