“I like melons,” announced one of our young participants as she sliced a honeydew melon. Her left-handed technique with the knife worried us but only for a little while. She was quick to remind us that she has cut melons before, deftly chopping the melon into crescent-shaped bites. She quietly picks up a piece of fruit cut by one of Eat Club’s session assistants, trimming the uneven and chunky bits away into a more uniform shape. Message received.
All around us, our young participants at the Copenhagen Primary’s After-School Club at the Copenhagen Youth Project (CYP) were hard at work, like little elves. They washed and diced strawberries, picked grapes off the bunch, halved peaches and arranged them on platters and in bowls. We caught one of them reaching into the bowl of green grapes. “You can help yourself to one more,” we tell him. And he does before rushing back into the kitchen where Ruth is arranging the day’s specials—blueberry cupcakes, cheesy and crumbly breadsticks, and savoury biscuits.
It was the final session of the After-school club and we had invited the kids’ parents to eat with us. At the end of eight weeks, we were happy to see the changes the programme brought to our participants. They were more curious, eager to try their hand at making new dishes and quick to learn new recipes and pointers to healthy eating. A few children, like Eren have begun cooking meals at home. “These sessions help the kids learn how to cook, especially the boys. Since he knows the other kids in the group, he is happy to come cook with them,” his mum tells us. The sessions definitely encouraged Eren to eat more fruit and veggies, especially as a snack.
For another young participant the sessions helped reaffirm her decision to become a chef when she grows up. “She’s now putting the skills she learnt at Eat Club to work at home, making roast chicken dinner once. She wanted to be a chef before she joined these sessions and now she wants to become one even more” her mum says.
Angel certainly doesn’t consider cooking to be a dull routine, a sentiment she shares with other children at our sessions. A reassuring sign, as we can all easily recall moments where we have given up on cooking a healthy meal at home because it was exhausting or boring. Our participants are already comfortable in a kitchen, at ease with their cooking partners, chatting away about mundane things like math homework and how frustrating it gets when dough sticks to their fingers.
“We have to introduce cooking as a part of the curriculum; cooking healthy food with fresh ingredients,” notes Miss Clarke, a teacher at the Copenhagen Primary School. “I am really impressed by how independent the children are in the kitchen. They are really interested in cooking and one of them even cooked a meal for her family recently.”
While we are sad to see these kids leave, we are looking forward to the next cohort in the next academic year.
by Gowri Devika – Eat Club Team