As DC heated up to blazing temperatures this month, LAYC’s Food & Nutrition Program staff kicked off the summer with 18 DC youth. Through DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), these young people are gaining valuable employment experience while learning about culinary arts at LAYC over an intensive six-week program.

Participants come from all over the city, including youth who have participated in LAYC programs for years and others who are getting to know the organization for the first time. SYEP youth are working every day in our full-sized kitchen to hone their cooking skills, learn about work opportunities in the food industry, and explore foods from different cultures. Each youth brings their unique perspective and expectations to the program and, as a result, the program’s impact on each individual is equally varied.

Kathryn* talks about her experience:

“Over the past week, we have learned about and done many things with food. Our first meal that we made was guacamole and pico de gallo. It was a bit challenging for the group to cut the onions, because they made our eyes water. Each group had different guacamole; one was spicy, one was creamy, and the other was a mix of both.”

“The second meal we cooked was Thai curry, which was different for all of us. None of us were very familiar with curry and we had fun cooking it for the first time. Other than cooking, we played games, had a special guest, and engaged in group conversations. Our first week has been enjoyable and a new experience.”

J’Lin reflects on the program:


“The first week of culinary was one like no other. Many students went in a little more open-minded than others. I myself was a little hesitant about this program as I don’t like making new friends. I was also very afraid to try the new foods as I typically eat the same thing. I’m not really a foodie, which I learned is someone that likes to try new food and learn about their cultures. However I’m not too opposed to cooking some of these dishes.”

“Over these next few weeks, I hope others like me learn to enjoy this program. We go to the garden to advance the community. We cook often and we go on field trips every Friday which are very fun despite the burning heat.”

This week, participants will be learning about Farm-to-Table food, working in LAYC’s growing urban gardens, and making pickles with a local guest chef.

Stay tuned for youth reflections on Farm-to-Table week in our next blog!

* Name changed for privacy

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