Fresh Take Blog

Bringing the magic of cooking in FoodPrints to students’ homes during this school year

Apr. 9, 2021

Imagine popping outside your front door, and waiting for you there is a bag full of fresh produce that you will get to have fun cooking and eating with your friends and family. Well, for students at five DC Elementary Schools, they don’t have to use their imaginations… this is FoodPrints!

Thanks to funding from Learn24, students across DC have been participating in FoodPrints virtual programs for almost a year, cooking fresh, nutritious meals with produce provided by FRESHFARM through our Pop Up Food Hub.

Through FoodPrints cooking sessions, these students are:

  • Staying connected to their classmates and community
  • Learning lifelong culinary skills
  • Developing pride and confidence through cooking delicious meals
  • Gaining access to fresh food and equitable cooking experiences

Classmate Connections & A Sense of Community:

As students and their families chop, measure, stir, and mix, there is laughter, conversation, and camaraderie. One parent says, “We value the sessions virtually by connecting with other families, making yummy recipes and trying new things.” Families are connecting through these sessions and keeping strong ties to school and to each other.  In the middle of one session, a student exclaimed,  “I like cooking with my friends and their moms!” Ms. Rain, our FoodPrints Teacher at Anne Beers Elementary School says, “FoodPrints cooking sessions create a sense of belonging because, like many have said, ‘it’s like we are family having fun and cooking together and learning at the same time.’”

Lifelong Culinary Skills:

Recently, a parent participating in FoodPrints cooking sessions said, “FoodPrints is important because it teaches the children and their parents about quality food and fun ways to incorporate those healthy foods easily into our everyday lives.” This school year, students and families have made a variety of recipes from ABC (Apple, Beet, Carrot) Salad and Plant Part Pasta to Overnight Oats with Fresh Fruit. From these cooking experiences, students have learned how to independently and safely wash and then peel and chop fresh produce, use a grater, measure dry and liquid ingredients, and more!

While students learn cooking skills, they are able to be creative and they often share the flavors that they have created and are enjoying.  One parent says that the cooking sessions “helps to teach and reinforce basic life skills for the children, because if they can’t cook, they won’t have full autonomy over what they eat.” A Kimball Elementary student recently said “If we can grow corn in our garden, we can make all kinds of great food like tortillas and corn bread.”  Students understand the path of food from garden to their tables and have the skills to prepare it into healthy foods that they love.

Pride & Confidence Through Cooking:

Often during FoodPrints sessions, students will say things like “I feel like a real chef!” As students learn that they are fully capable of cooking delicious food, they shine with pride and confidence. One student last month said to his virtual cooking class, “I’m the best kale breaker upperer!” as he ripped kale from the stem and mixed it into his salad bowl. At another school, a student shows up every week in his chef’s hat and apron ready to go. As students gain cooking skills and independence in the kitchen, they simultaneously grow their sense of pride in themselves and self-confidence, which impacts every part of their lives beyond their FoodPrints classes.

Access to Fresh Food & Equitable Cooking Experiences:

During 2020, the FoodPrints team added food access as a way to increase equity in our programming. In collaboration with the FRESHFARM Pop Up Food Hub, we provide ingredients for virtual cooking classes which we deliver to schools or homes. As of March 2021, for students at 5 schools, FRESHFARM has made available 275 bags of fresh food with a total of:

  • 500 lbs of apples
  • 125 lbs of carrots
  • 67 lbs of beets
  • 107 lbs of radishes
  • 172 bunches of kale or other leafy greens
  • 60 bunches of herbs (parsley, chives, rosemary and mint)

In addition to ingredients, all students receive their own set of basic cooking equipment to keep: a scrubber, peeler, child safe knife and a cutting board. Because all students have the produce and tools they need to cook, our students are able to fully participate in our online sessions, cooking right alongside their teachers, peers, and parents. Yes, parents! We’ve found that some parents who were not able to volunteer during in school sessions (pre-pandemic), are now able to join. This has been a silver lining in our virtual programming — kids feel comfortable because they’re in the safety of their own space and parents are joining them. Parents are often asking questions like “Can you go over that one more time? I need to see how you stripped that kale so fast.”

In virtual FoodPrints classes, students are in the company of their families, chopping, mixing, and measuring together and they are with their classmates on screen, making for lively sessions full of laughter and proud moments, building skills and connections, just like in our classrooms.

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