Cooking With Kids Foundation (CWKF) is a non-profit foundation dedicated to teaching children one of the most fundamental skills in life—how to cook. But CWKF isn’t just about cooking, it’s about educating children in the early formative years of life (preschool through age 12) about how being healthy translates into quality of life, longevity and achieving goals. Through classes taught by the Cooking With Kids Foundation, children don’t just learn cooking skills, but they develop a spiritual connection with the source of the food, and begin to understand how the importance of nourishing the body aids in living healthy and productive lives. CWKF students get to observe, touch and taste the food they are going to prepare and eat.
Having seen the statistics skyrocket, with 1 in 3 children suffering from childhood obesity and a large percentage with diseases like Type 2 Diabetes, cardiovascular disease and even things like scurvy, Cooking With Kids Foundation founder Chef Lynda Rexroat knew the nation had a real problem. “Eighteen years ago, I noticed that obesity and diabetes was a problem. Then a few more years passed and I noticed it was an epidemic. Now it is a full blown pandemic,” says Chef Lynda, an East Bay native. And there is no magical formula to determine if someone is at risk. “I’ve seen highly educated and wealthy people with these problems and I’ve seen impoverished people with these problems. Health education is important. What we feed ourselves is important. If we can teach kids as young as four years old about cooking and nutrition, they have those life skills forever.”
Chef Lynda first began Cooking With Kids in 1997 when she taught after school classes at the local parks and recreation department. “My own kids always knew about food and how to cook for themselves. They knew how to choose the right foods. As they grew up and went to college, I started realizing that not everyone received that same basic education. The kids who were properly nourished tended to have clearer minds and make better decisions including staying in school and staying off drugs and alcohol.” And so, in 2010, Cooking With Kids Foundation became a non-profit organization dedicated to giving children the tools with which to live longer, healthier lives.
Beyond just preparing a dish, Chef Lynda’s students also learn other essential kitchen and life skills. “We learn how to wash our hands and how to hold and use knives. We learn how to make shopping lists and how to identify ingredients in the super market. We learn how to read a recipe and measure and mix and chop. We learn the differences in herbs and spices and what their uses might be. We even learn proper food storage to prevent spoilage or foodborne illness, all while cooking something delicious and nutritious to eat. The kids love it and I love it too. I sleep very well at night.” she said. And when the dish is finished, Chef Lynda has her students draw pictures of the recipes they prepared as well as the ingredients to help them identify the dish or ingredient in future. “At the end of a class, parents frequently stand in stunned silence watching their children eat items they swear the children won’t eat. When it is fresh and delicious and they have a connection to how it was grown and prepared, all-of-a-sudden their children love things like salad and Brussels sprouts. It’s very rewarding.” Chef Lynda continued.
The Cooking With Kids Foundation’s curriculum is very comprehensive and includes a lot of information, but at a pace and in a form that is easy for children to digest. The CWKF curriculum includes things like sample shopping lists, coloring and drawing pages for various ingredients, correct knife-holding technique, recipes, photos of ingredients, dishes, herbs and spices, ingredient quizzes, and even ingredient substitution tips. “Kids are like sponges. They want the knowledge and experience. Also, these foods aren’t fast foods. There is wait time involved—dough-rising time, baking time, boiling time. This time gives us an opportunity to use the worksheets to really learn about the foods we are using,” says Chef Lynda of her education-rich program. And, if you are lucky enough to attend one of Chef Lynda’s classes, the first thing you will notice is that the foods these kids prepare isn’t just your typical PB&J, grilled cheese, kid-friendly fare. It’s real food with real ingredients such as Pasta Primavera, Caesar Salad, Potato Leek Soup, Open Face Apple Tart, Rhine Carrots and Focaccia Bread.
Would you like to see more of the Cooking With Kids Foundation? All of these delicious lessons may soon be coming to an event near you! CWKF has been working hard at fundraising in order to purchase a mobile kitchen/classroom to bring the show on the road. This mobile unit would be able to accommodate several children and instructors, enabling CWKF to spread the knowledge to many different locations. “When I started 18 years ago, my classes were funded by my wholesale French tart business. But as the concept grew in popularity and we reached a non-profit status, we needed more funding. The banks, local businesses and individuals have been very generous. I’m very grateful,” says Chef Lynda. “We have now started crowd funding and have set up a Gofundme for Cooking With Kids Foundation.”
Registration for fall cooking classes are on now! If you are interested in more information from Chef Lynda, her cooking camps, Cooking With Kids Foundation, purchasing tickets to various upcoming fundraising events or to donate goods or services, please visit www.cwkf.org. If you would like to donate online, Cooking With Kids Foundation’s Gofundme page can be found at http://www.gofundme.com/wv4mbh9.