By Julia Kann, Program Manager, Food & Nutrition
Summer is here, LAYC’s cooking classes are filling up, and our veggie garden is bursting! Students have been cooking up a storm in classes held in LAYC’s Teen Center and at YouthBuild and LAYC Career Academy Public Charter Schools through our Community Schools Consortium.
Highlights from spring cooking classes
Students had a guest visit from Baked and Wired’s Chef Meg, who talked to them about work in the food industry and taught the group how to make pickles. After a week of letting the cucumbers chill in their brine, students tasted their work. “They taste just like real pickles!” proclaimed one student. Another youth planned to take his home as a gift for his grandmother.
As a final project, students created healthy adaptations to preferred dishes. A Latino student taught an Ethiopian student to make guacamole, and one student group filled their school with the delicious smell of curry chicken with brown rice and veggies.
In one class, a youth was skeptical of trying beans, the final ingredient to be added to a veggie chili. After finally mustering the courage to taste the chili, she proclaimed, “This isn’t horrible; it’s actually pretty good,” and proceeded to eat an entire plate.
Students also tabled at an LAYC health fair, making custom smoothies that included fresh strawberries, kale, and spinach from our garden.
The young people wrapped up a cooking class by making Ethiopian lentil sambusas, tasty triangular pastries. Ethiopian youth with experience making sambusas at home taught their classmates how to perform the intricate folding and filling. The sambusa-making caught the eye of a class guest, Professor Jane Palmer from American University (AU). Professor Palmer observed, “When I went to the Teen Center, it was predominately Ethiopian teenagers, and they were learning to make a traditional Ethiopian dish. So it was really fun. My students were cutting onions with them, but then they were all crying. They bonded over that. They cooked together, and then my students sat down and interviewed them about their experiences in the class.”
Professor Palmer attended the class thanks to LAYC’s collaboration with AU’s Community-Based Research Program. You can read more about our partnership on AU’s website.
Gardening with River Corps youth
Our LAYC garden is flourishing with the arrival of warm weather and rain. A partnership with LAYC’s River Corps program has us off to a strong start, thanks to a fantastic group of young people helping us maintain the garden.
Before their first garden workday, Charmaine, a farmer at Licking Creek Bend Farm, visited with River Corps youth. She shared with them what it is like to work on a farm and gave them tips for their work in the LAYC garden. River Corps members also set up LAYC’s first compost system, a worm farm with 1,000 red wigglers. Now food scraps from cooking classes go to feed the worms, which create nutrient-rich soil that goes back into our garden to grow more veggies for cooking classes!
Thanks to the work of these energetic young people, we have broccoli and cauliflower growing alongside peas, kale, carrots, and more. Our strawberry harvest has also been bountiful, and the raspberries are starting to come in now. With summer in full swing, we’ve just planted tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, watermelon, and other edibles, some of which LAYC youth started from seed on their classroom window sill.