Junior chef program teaches children how to prepare healthy meals on budget

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A summer program for elementary and middle school students in Palm Beach County is helping children learn how to prepare healthy meals on a budget.

Called Cooking Matters, the junior chef program aims to empower kids with healthy choices.

The Salvation Army Northwest Community Center and the Florida Includes Physical Activity and Nutrition to Youth organization teamed up for the project.

“It’s a year-round program focused on improving the health and wellness outcomes of children,” said James Easley, executive director at the Salvation Army Northwest Community Center in West Palm Beach.

Cooking Matters summer program


Easley said the program gives students the opportunity to prepare well-balanced meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“All of the stats show that obesity and dietary habits have negative impacts on the health wellness of our children, so we are trying to make sure we do a great job here in terms of education,” Easley said.

Nine-year-old Liya Makonnen was busy preparing a dish during Monday’s program.

“Today we are making a guacamole-looking thing. The lemon got my eyes though, kind of hard making it. But at the end, it’s kind of cool, and I get to learn things about cooking,” Liya said.

Cooking Matters summer program


“The cooking is kind of easy but hard at the same time,” said 8-year-old Zamayah Holmes.

The children learn new recipes that they can later prepare at home.

“I want to teach my friend’s family, people that I know people that don’t know too, I’m going to teach them how to cook,” Liya said.

While the children are learning new cooking skills, they are also putting together boxed meals for the homeless.

“It’s important because if you want to be treated that way, you have to treat others that way,” Zamayah said.