During the second session this week, we welcomed three campers–a number that was a lot smaller than what we had hoped for, but a solid core group that gave us the opportunity to breathe and to refine.
We started by shortening the day from four hours to three hours, which took some of the pressure off of us to fill space. Instead, we found success with using a little of our time at the beginning of each day to play active games outside. We also changed the structure of the cooking lessons from having each student prepare one part of the recipe to encouraging kids to work in pairs to cook the entire recipe together. We saw much more ownership and pride when the kids cooked the whole recipe–not to mention a more efficient use of time and a greater willingness to try new things. Next week, we’ll work on refining the information about nutrition and meal planning we want to impart. We want each student to leave the camp knowing why it’s important to eat healthy as well as feeling like healthy recipes are delicious and easy.
As we find our stride in the day-to-day structure of the camp, we’re also learning a lot about the nature of this project. We started Summer Chefs because we wanted to empower kids in a low-income, food-insecure community to eat well by using the community garden in their neighborhood as a source of food. This project has been a study in intersectionality in that we’ve learned that empowerment and eating well isn’t as simple as giving kids cooking lessons or showing them that kale really doesn’t taste that bad. We alternate between thinking that this camp could be something positive for the kids that we’ve met in the neighborhood around the garden and realizing that pervasive forces like racism, homophobia, and misogyny have already made an indelible impact on their lives.
These comments aren’t meant to be defeatist. Rather, this project has been a good place for the two of us to gain a greater understanding of the complex, multi-layered problem of food insecurity; it is helping us learn our distinct places within its solution.