Summer is in full swing at the Latin American Youth Center. Through DC’s Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP), 18 young people are working in our Food & Nutrition Program to hone their cooking skills, learn about work opportunities in the food industry, and explore foods from different cultures.

Throughout this six-week intensive, youth are writing blog entries to share what they’ve been up to. You can check out our last post here.

Week Two’s themes were nutrition and farm-to-table, which participant Kiara talks about here:

“This was the second week of the program and it’s just getting started. We began the week off learning about nutrition and we got to research our favorite fast food restaurant and see which of the meals we eat there are healthy and which aren’t. The next day we learned about a healthy and balanced meal including the different food groups and we took that and created a menu for our own [hypothetical] restaurant. Then we welcomed our first guest chef who taught us how to make pickles. We had a day off to celebrate the Fourth of July and, after all the fun we had [on the 4th], everyone came the next day to have a good work in our garden. It was very hot while we worked on planting and keeping our garden tasty. In the afternoon we prepared salad recipes that we had chosen to make at the beginning of the week. Finishing off the week, we took a field trip to union market where we completed a team scavenger hunt and tried different foods. Then we went to an Ethiopian restaurant where we had a vegetarian plate and it was very delicious!”

Week Three gave youth the opportunity to learn about different cultures through food. Guest chefs from local Ethiopian and Indian restaurants came to give guest demos to our class. Plus, one group planned and implemented a seasonal cooking demonstration at the Columbia Heights Farmers Market. Tiffani writes:

“This week we learned about two different countries, Ethiopia and India. We had two guest chefs, one from each culture, who taught us how to cook their traditional dishes. It was interesting to see all the different spices and herbs that the different cultures use that are specific to their countries. We also had the opportunity to create our own dishes and give out samples at the market. It was a good experience because we were able to make our own recipes, with seasonal ingredients that were being sold at the market, and share it with our community.”

Another participant, Karen, adds:

“This week was an amazing week. We got to do a lot. We got a chance to cook Ethiopian food. This is something that I have never done before. Trying the Ethiopian food was a unique scenario and one that we might not forget. Chef Hemen gave us a detailed speech about her Ethiopian culture and restaurant. In a little motivational speech she talked about the challenges she had in life of being a single mother and how she conquered it during her life. Further into the week we did yoga, which was a good exercise. Afterward, we also made Indian food with Chef Rano, who gave us a cooking demonstration that consisted of rice, cauliflower, and peas; she also made a strawberry smoothie. On our last day of Ethiopian and Indian week, we headed to UDC’s FireBird Farm. At the farm, Brian gave us a tour so we could see where are all the different types of vegetables and fruits the farm were growing. At the farm, they had a system that is called aquaponics where they had fish, and a hydroponics system without fish; both of the systems play an important role in the life of plants. It was a great opportunity to come learn new things this week from different cultures and learn about plant life!!”

We’re half way through the summer and there are many more guests, cooking demos, and field trips to come. Check back for another youth-written blog post soon!

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