by Julia Paige, Lead Garden Educator Manager
Childhood obesity rates have tripled since 1980, American toddlers are more likely to eat french fries than green vegetables on any given day, and it is estimated that 20 percent of all American meals are eaten in a car.
With dire facts such as these, what can be done to make a change in a positive direction for the health of our kids and our meals? One Cool Earth has decided to act by hosting Family Cooking Nights: a free event where families are invited to join us as we guide them through a recipe and facilitate family mealtime with real plates and real time to talk to one another.
Our goal for Family Cooking Nights is to demonstrate that cooking and eating together can be fun, easy, and affordable. Cooking with their family also benefits children in numerous ways. Exposure to scratch cooking helps kids develop a mature taste for fresh ingredients and consider the portions and nutrition of what they are eating. Cooking also creates the necessary space and time for families to feel connected to one another by engaging in conversation (sans phones), collaborating around a task, and sharing the fruits of their labors together.
With each recipe we made, we are seeing the benefits of creating a space to cook and share food as a family. One surprised parent told me at our last Family Cooking Night at San Benito Elementary school “I have never seen my son go near an onion, but he ate two [black bean and sweet potato empanadas] and said he loved them!” At another event, we were told by family that they cherished the time they were able to spend together cooking and the taste of food made from scratch because their current housing circumstances did not allow for home cooked meals. For us, stories such as these demonstrate that every child deserves not only a place to grow, but also to cook. It will create a generation of healthier, more informed eaters and strengthen familial bonds along the way.