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CMHS Healthy Kids in the Kitchen Program Enters Second Year

In April 2018, Community Memorial Health System, in collaboration the Boys & Girls Club of Ventura County and Chef Rachel Main Holst, developed and launched a nutrition education program that takes underserved youth into the kitchen for hands-on, healthy cooking classes. Designed with the goal of improving diet choices and enhancing the overall health of children and their families, the program focuses on exposing participants to a variety of nutrient-dense ingredients such as kale, squash, and collard greens, while also teaching them how to use more familiar ingredients such as ground beef, rice, and cheese in healthier ways.

“It’s important to provide safe and positive opportunities for children to make choices about what they do and do not want to put in their bodies,” said Chef Rachel Main Holst. “Forming and following healthy habits during the formative years makes it more likely that a child will carry those habits for the rest of his or her life.”

“Beyond health and wellness, there are numerous long-term benefits to learning how to cook,” continued Holst. “It is an excellent opportunity for children to develop and strengthen their confidence and self-assurance, and to learn that they have the power to create something the way they want it to be.”

During Healthy Kids in the Kitchen workshops, groups of 10 youth take part in highly interactive, small-group kitchen sessions supervised by two chefs, a CMHS Registered Nurse, and a member of the CMHS Outreach team. The workshops begin with an in-depth hand washing lesson emphasizing the importance of good hand hygiene for safe food handling and overall wellness.

Woman and students cooking

Each Healthy Kids in the Kitchen workshop is a highly-interactive, small group session supervised by two chefs, a CMHS registered nurse, and a member of the CMHS Outreach team.

Next, participants learn about the importance of hydration and how much water to drink on a daily basis, as well as how to “design” their plates using optimal quantities of fruit, grains, protein and vegetables. Finally, the little chefs head into the kitchen for closely-supervised chopping, measuring, stirring, and finally – eating! The menu for each workshop varies, but includes recipes like Squash Chili and Healthy Bones Kale Salad.

“It’s amazing to watch the kids become more open to trying new things just over the course of one workshop,” said Evelyn Scott, RN, Outreach Manager for Community Memorial Health System. “Being engaged with the cooking process gets them excited about eating what they’ve prepared – even if it includes ingredients they’ve never heard of or wouldn’t normally like.”

A kid holding up a cookbook

Each program participant takes home a Healthy Kids in the Kitchen cookbook, complete with five healthy recipes.

Every participant takes home a CMHS Healthy Kids in the Kitchen cookbook, complete with five nutritious recipes and highly-visual summaries of all the educational components of the workshop. “Our hope is that the information we provide and the enthusiasm of the kids will inspire other members of their families to try new foods and make healthier decisions,” said Scott.

Healthy Kids in the Kitchen workshops took place at the Camarillo Boys & Girls Club in mid-April, and additional events are scheduled in Nyland Acres for July and August.