Youth culinary program takes at-risk kids off the streets

What happens when you get a group of kids together to make food? You would think a disaster, but at the Youth Culinary Arts program it is a major success!

The program, run by Wood’s Homes in partnership with the John Howard Society and help from Calgary Food Bank’s Food Link program, is designed to expose at-risk homeless youth from ages 15 to 24 to hands-on cooking skills.

Christina Rider, Team Leader at the Culinary Arts Program, says that along with cooking skills, these youth are learning valuable life skills they wouldn’t have found anywhere else.

“It’s really just about building upon their skills and supporting them so they can be successful living independently and succeeding as adults,” says Christina.

Every month, the youth head to the Calgary Food Bank and pick up non-perishable food from our food link program. Christina says that coming here gives the kids the opportunity to utilize the food that you are given in hampers and how to make nutritious, healthy meals.

“We are really grateful to be able to utilize the food bank and to show the kids there is endless possibilities to what you have,” Christina says.

Not only is the program’s youth and family councillor qualified red seal chef, the program also brought in a professional chef to help teach.

Most of these kids have never used a measuring cup or followed a recipe, so the culinary experience is designed to mould to each person to inspire and engage them.

The chef’s-in-training have made everything from pasta sauce, signature BBQ sauces to exotic desserts, which you would no doubt expect to find in a five star restaurant.

A good percentage of youth that have gotten jobs in the culinary field. Some youth who have completed the program say they are interested in attending SAIT for their culinary and baking programs.

Christina says the success of the program boils down to ensuring that all the youth leave with skills they didn’t come in with. On top of the culinary skills, they leave with a safe handling certificate, updated resumes, and financial literacy skills.

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