Getting kids excited about food and cooking early in life can have a major positive impact on their health and confidence as adults.
That's why we fund fun and interactive food programs where kids learn hands-on skills and leadership, and build positive relationships with food.
From cooking and gardening to bike-blender smoothie-making, kids learn how to grow, cook, and share healthy food, and gain the skills and confidence they need to become the next generation of Canada's food leaders.
After School Program: The Table Community Food Centre
When Holly’s mother signed her up for an after-school program at The Table Community Food Centre, she didn’t realize what an impact it would have on the rest of their family. After building new skills in preparing food, and learning about the importance of eating nutritious, locally-grown food, Holly brought this knowledge home to share with her family. On Mother’s Day, Holly prepared breakfast for her whole family without any help. “The strawberries were diced perfectly, the waffles—made from scratch—were amazing, and she was so confident and proud of herself,” said her mother.
Young Cooks: Dartmouth North Community Food Centre
When school's out for the summer, the Dartmouth North Community Food Centre has loads of fun and learning in store for kids in their Young Cooks program. Food Skills Coordinator Melissa Rankin introduces children to fresh herbs, like basil, from seed to tip. After they learn how it grows and takl how it tastes, the children learn how to make a pesto to bring home to their families. Being able to successfully follow through on something from start to finish empowers kids, builds confidence, and whets their appetite for learning more. It's what Melissa loves the most about working with kids, and she encourages it thoroughly. Every session starts with a snack and a discussion, with the children sharing what kinds of foods they love and asking questions about the day’s project. Communal eating and discussion also occurs at the end of each session: would they make the recipe again? What was their favourite part of the day? What did they learn? This all works into building a deeper understanding of food, as well as a love for it.
"They naturally gravitate to food, and they’re telling me that they love it. It’s encouraging good food habits. We are really naturally interested in it, but it’s a skill that needs to be built: the more you do it, the better you get at it."
After School Smoothie Drop-in: NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre
There's something magical about the bright yellow bike at NorWest Co-op Community Food Centre. When kids hop on at the after-school drop-in program, they aren't racing down the street—they're powering up a blender's worth of fresh fruit smoothies. Kids of all ages can take a turn making up a batch, getting some exercise at the same time. Youth social workers from the NorWest Co-op Community Health Centre also stop by the program, connect with kids in a comfortable place, and offer on-the-spot counselling.
Youth Cooking Up Justice Club: The Alex Community Food Centre
Every Wednesday, a group of young people from the Forest Lawn neighbourhood of Calgary meet up at The Alex Community Food Centre to cook, garden, work on art projects, and talk about how to make their community a healthier place for everyone. They came up with a big idea one day: Get candidates in the municipal election to share a meal with their community and talk about the barriers they face accessing food in the neighbourhood. In September 2017, they hosted #HungryforChange
, an all-candidates town hall and community dinner, where more than 100 community members raised issues and pressed the candidates for solutions.
“Youth bring a sense of fun to these big, challenging issues. They bring a hopeful energy and a positive attitude that can change the mood, and, ultimately, the conversation in a room.” – Syma Habib, Community Action Coordinator, The Alex CFC
Watch the kids at The Local Community Food Centre bring their pizza bake oven to life.
Looking for more info on the issues? Read our backgrounder to learn how food insecurity impacts the health and well-being of Canadian children and youth.
Want to start your own after school program? Download our how-to guide.