Early in 2006, I conducted a needs assessment in central Milwaukee that revealed a youth population with a consistently poor diet, a high prevalence of obesity, and a dearth of programming to address the issue. I found adolescents who were responsible for preparing meals not only for themselves but also for their younger siblings--meals that consisted of heating instant, packaged foods. The idea to reintroduce a re-invented home economics to address the needs of today’s youth was born.
I wrote and launched Youth Chef Academy© for middle-school-aged children. Guided by food acceptance research, this hands-on education program teaches children to cook plant-based meals from scratch while incorporating grade-specific academic standards. Evaluation done in partnership with the University of Wisconsin shows that it not only increases intake of fruits and vegetables, but also engagement in learning.
With the help and support of many donors, educators, interns, parents and volunteers, Youth Chef Academy© has been able to teach more than 2,500 children in 16 schools and organizations how to cook from scratch. We have expanded programming to include Youth Chef Academy© Elementary a cooking-based nutrition education program for 4th - 5th graders and are piloting Growing Chefs, a cooking and gardening-based curricula for 2nd - 3rd graders. We also offer our curricula in camps and after-school settings.
Our goal is to bring hands-on culinary education to every school-aged child in Milwaukee, empowering children, families and communities to make food choices that will not only bring lasting changes in their personal health but also to the health of their communities and the environment. We envision a world where eating wholesome, home-cooked meals with family and friends is the norm and all people have the opportunity to enjoy life-long health. We ask that you join us in the fight to reclaim our children's health as a volunteer, advocate or supporter.
Lisa Kingery, MS, RDN
Founder and Culinary Educator