Teaching kids to cook.

Why Kids in the Kitchen?

Poor nutrition is affecting the health of children in Nova Scotia, across the Canada and around the world. In a recent Nova Scotia study of 5,200 grade five students, more than half did not meet Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating recommendations for minimum servings from the four food groups. Skipping meals, skipping breakfast, and purchasing meals at school or fast-foods restaurants contributed to poor intakes. Additionally, grade 5 students who bought lunch at school were 39% more likely to be overweight compared with those bringing lunch from home.
— Government of Nova Scotia
One-third of Canadian children ages 5-17 are overweight or obese.
— Stats Canada (2012)
Meals eaten outside the home are almost uniformly less healthy than homemade foods, generally having higher fat, salt and caloric content.
— Michael Pollan, Cooked
I wholeheartedly believe that cooking is up there as one of the most valuable skills you can teach a child, right alongside reading and writing.
— Jamie Oliver, Super Food Family Classics

Food is a hot topic right now. Vast swaths of North American society have embraced current food movements; “local”, “organic”, and “foodie” are some of the biggest buzzwords of this century. But what about cooking? Is that a trend? And cooking with kids — is it happening?

When kids learn to prepare food themselves, they gain life skills, experience joy and pleasure and fun, and gain a sense of immediacy and accomplishment.

They also learn about good nutrition, and elements of math and science. Research has shown that children are much more likely to want to eat food they themselves have helped prepare. Studies have also shown that cooking food at home reduces one's chances of being overweight. 

The importance of children using their minds, hands and all their 5 senses to nourish themselves, and thus learning to nourish others, cannot be overestimated.

People are paying more attention than ever before to what they eat. We care where our food comes from. How it was grown, and how animals were raised for food. But many adults still don’t have much time to cook meals from scratch. The pace of contemporary life has not changed with this recently food-focused culture; in fact, it keeps accelerating. And if adults don’t have time to cook food themselves, they certainly don’t have time to teach their children how to cook.

But voices from all over the world are crying out for this to change. Alice Waters, the woman who kicked off the local food movement in North America when she opened her restaurant, Chez Panisse, in California in 1971, has laid out nine principles in her book The Art of Simple Food. One of these is Cook Together.

“Include your family and friends, and especially children. When children grow, cook and serve food, they want to eat it. The hands-on experience of gardening and cooking teaches children the value and pleasure of good food almost effortlessly.”

Waters runs an initiative called The Edible Schoolyard, where she installs gardens on public school property and the school children maintain them, harvest from them, and cook and eat the literal fruits of their labours. It’s now been in operation for over 20 years and there are 5,000 schools across the USA implementing the Edible Schoolyard program.

Here in Halifax, researcher and Health Promotion professor Sara Kirk is raising her voice in support of a National School Food Program for all Canadian children.

All kids need to have some degree of food literacy and we see a lot more of that in other countries. In many other countries they prioritize food, they prioritize eating, sitting down for meals. In Finland, for example, school lunches are free to all students and actually the healthiest meal those students eat during the day.
— Sara Kirk, Dalhousie University, Halifax

If we can teach our children to make food from scratch, using whole ingredients, we will give them skills they can use every day, for their entire lives. At Bite-Sized Kitchen, my mission is to teach children the basics of making food: skills that will benefit their families, society at large, and especially, children themselves.