YMCA and Kroger cooking for good with Roanoke kids

Cooking With Me teaches students to make healthy choices

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - The YMCA is partnering with Kroger in Roanoke to help keep our kids' stomachs full and encourage them to learn a little something along the way. The Cooking With Me program teaches good habits early and that you can do it even if your kitchen skills end with a bowl of cereal.

The school day may have been over for the kids at Fishburn Elementary, but Ms. Molly was just getting started, and it was the tastiest lesson of the day.

"We are encouraging kids to be adventurous and curious in this program, to try new flavors that they wouldn't have normally tried," YMCA instructor Molly Gutierrez said.

It's all part of the YMCA after-school program. Kroger donated a $15,000 grant to make it happen.

"My goal is really to blow their minds," Gutierrez said.

The program shows kids that a few choices can make all the difference, especially if you live in a food desert where that isn't always easy.

"Most of the families there are getting their food from a convenience store versus a grocery store with fresh vegetables, fresh fruit," YMCA Branch Executive Jonathan Pait said.

In this lesson, they scooped deep into their batch of chickpea chocolate cookies. It's not the most typical snack, but it's about teaching good habits early.

"And if they grow up with the education on how to eat correctly and how to cook correctly, then they will do that as adults and they will pass it on to their next generation," Pait said.

Keeping kids' attention is tough to do, but if you teach them, feed them and show them that being healthy can be tasty, you'll have a better chance of locking them in.

"It's the most rewarding thing ever to have kids who are completely adamant that they don't want to try something and then by the end of class have tasted a little bite and they secretly love it," Gutierrez said.

The program also gives education to the kids' parents for healthy eating and encouraging them to cook healthy meals at home. The students will show off their new skills at a family night in a few weeks.

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