When it comes to teaching kids about healthy eating, it's not enough just to tell them to eat their vegetables.
You have to show them how, said Tori Beurschaper, Education Coordinator at Community Harvest Project.
That's the idea behind the series of cooking classes launched this year by the non-profit farm in North Grafton. Once a month, they host one-to-two hour culinary classes for kids ages 5 to 12, each set around a different food theme. From desserts to dumplings, pasta and pickles, there may be an offering for every taste, but one of the points of the classes, said Buerschaper, is broaden kids' palate.
"Finding ways to get kids to love and want to eat fruit and veggies is a lot of times about repeated exposure - the same food in many different ways," said Beurschaper. "So it's not just red peppers sliced and eaten with dip. It's seeing that there's lots of different ways to cook and eat vegetables, and teaching them those cooking skills."
Classes are limited to about a dozen children and take place in the great room in the farm's barn. Stand-alone burners, blenders, griddles and food processors are brought out, and the fun begins.
The cooking classes first help children master some basic kitchen concepts - how to hold a knife, measure ingredients, or figure out fractions, for example - then try their hand at a recipe. For older kids, the lesson is taken a step further as they learn about adapting different methods and ingredients to suit different tastes. All classes emphasize basic nutrition, and include hands-on cooking and vegetarian recipes to take home.
"The underlying theme is some sort of nutritional lesson and focusing on fruits and veggies," said Beurschaper, noting that's in line with the Community Harvest Project's great goal of giving all people access to fresh, healthy foods. "It's not always about giving people the food, but about providing the knowledge."
So far, kids have mastered granola recipes in a "Morning Rocket Fuel" class, and celebrated international culture and cuisine in Korean Dumpling cooking course. In June, the themes shift to being planned according to what's in season. Throughout the summer, participants will be harvesting fresh ingredients right from the farm's garden.
"One of my favorite things is having a kid look at the ground and say, 'there's a carrot under there?' And we say, 'yep - and you're going to dig it up and then we're going it eat it," Beurschaper laughed.
Classes featuring quesadillas, homemade pasta, salad dressings, smoothies, pesto, salsa, dips and more are planned through December.
From May through August, the Community Harvest Project will also host programming for preschool age children (ages 2 to 4 with a parent), which will involved a hands-on farm activity, vegetable tasting, and other activities geared towards the season (think planting or tractor rides).
Pre-registration is required for each class: Broccoli Head Chefs (9 to 12 year olds) $40; Celery Sous Chefs (5 to 8 year olds) $20; and Pepper Pack (2 to 4 year olds) $10. More information is on the Community Harvest Project Facebook page or under the education tab at community-harvest.org.