Story by Abby Warren
Walking down the farmers-market-style pathway between "I Tried It" stations at Kids Cook! last Sunday, one could be sure to hear little voices exclaiming: "can we make this when we get home?" "parsley? I love it!" "I'm ready to plant my seed now!"
On Sunday, Portland Parks & Recreation hosted its first ever family-focused food event, Kids Cook! at the St. John's Community Center. The event was a success, as it elicited many smiles, not many sour faces, and sparked curiosity amongst the participating youth and families.
Community partners Growing Gardens, Slow Food Portland, Outgrowing Hunger, St. Johns Farmers Market, and Partners for a Hunger Free Oregon, hosted "I Tried It" stations where kids were invited to try a seasonal produce option in exchange for a stamp in their "I Tried It" passport. Once passports were completed, seasoned fruits and veggie eaters ran to the prize table to collect their winnings - a lesson in planting seeds. Tiny hands filled pots with soil, learned how to read a seed packet and plant accordingly, covered them up, decorated their pot, and took it home to transplant after a few weeks.
Every half hour, children gathered around the Cooking Demo Station, where they learned how to make kale-avocado salad, tofu-lettuce wraps, and corn-cabbage salsa. Lessons were led by Grow Afterschool, The Portland Kitchen, and the Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts. The kids were invited to participate in the demos, using their hands to mash up avocado, squeeze a lemon, or mix a salad - and then were invited to try their creations. Approving glances were passed amongst green smoothie-mustached faces.
Also a big hit for both kids and parents were samples of recipes with recipe cards from local St. Johns eateries including Proper Eats, Cathedral Park Kitchen, Krugers Farm Market, Hopworks Urban Brewery and Che Cafe Food Cart.
Kids Cook! was based off of Portland Parks & Recreations new Grow Afterschool program that gives kids the opportunity for hands-on exploration of cooking, gardening, and healthy living. Grow Afterschool debuted in spring 2012 as a pilot project at St. Johns and Charles Jordan Community Centers. This fall Grow Afterschool will expand to also be offered at Sellwood and Hillside Community Centers. Read more in the Oregonian.
Check out Grow Afterschool in action on the Let's Grow blog. Take a look around and find kid-approved dishes for all seasons in the recipes section.