Community Focus: After School Arts Program

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Urbandale, Iowa’s After School Arts Program Partners with Thomas Cuisine Management

We are fortunate at Thomas Cuisine Management to provide quality food service across the United States. In doing so, we feel it’s important to also participate in keeping our communities vibrant by volunteering in unique capacities to bring people together through Real Food. One of our most recent examples of community involvement is an intriguing and heart-warming one! Taking place at one of our Continued Care Retirement Centers in Urbandale, Iowa, our Director of Culinary Services Matt Monaco describes a creative way that his crew is bridging the generational gap between seniors and young people ages 5-12 by teaching weekly cooking classes for after school programs at the local elementary with the end goal of sharing what these enthusiastic young people have worked so hard to learn.


Here’s what Matt has to say:

I was approached by our Director of Community Services here at Deerfield (our Continued Care Retirement Facility) a couple months back. He said he had a friend that is the Executive Director with the After School Arts Program (also known as ASAP), and she was looking for some after school teaching artists to conduct weekly cooking classes. He reached out to us on her behalf, wanting to know if we had anyone in the kitchen who was interested in participating. I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to get residents involved and tie our goals of social accountability and service into the equation.

 

Chef (Aaron Vetter) and I have spent quite a bit of time talking about the class and what we want to teach the kids. For our first class we showed them how to make super healthy granola bars. The whole thought behind this class is that kids love kid friendly food, and we can teach them that kid friendly food can be healthy as well. The overall theme of the class is “Classic Snacks from Scratch”. Kids love granola bars, so we put together a fun and interactive class where the students helped with scaling, weighing, and mixing the ingredients for the recipe. The kids had a great time and took some granola bars home with them. We also polled the room to see what some of their favorite after school snacks were, and we heard a lot of typical kid friendly, fun food. One thing that we heard loud and clear was that they love French fries, so this week we are going to teach them how to make zucchini fries with marinara sauce! The hope here is that we can take some of the classic snacks that kids like, put together a fun and interactive class where the kids learn something. In doing so, we broaden their horizons a little on healthy eating, and get the residents involved with the whole process. I have a resident volunteer in mind that I am going to talk to this afternoon to see if she’s interested in participating in assisting during the rest of the classes.

 

This will be an opportunity for the students to show off some of the things they learned to the residents, and for the residents and students to enjoy a reception celebrating the end of a fun cooking class series.

 

The whole class is 7 weeks long, and we have already scheduled the last class to be a field trip out to Deerfield. This is where it gets pretty cool and ties into our values of service and community engagement. We have a bus that will seat about 20 people, so we are sending the bus out to pick up the kids and a family member and bringing them out to the community for an event where we showcase some of the items that we prepared in each class. This will be an opportunity for the students to show off some of the things they learned to the residents, and for the residents and students to enjoy a reception celebrating the end of a fun cooking class series. This class and the event on the last class day really work well with what we’re trying to do with supporting our residents and community in the Urbandale area.

 

This is an ongoing class that is offered every Friday for an hour in the afternoon right after school in 7-8 week sessions each semester, including the summer. The students range in age from Kindergarten – 5th Grade, so we have a really fun mix of students! We have already talked about doing the summer session this year at a different elementary school and continuing this relationship with ASAP in the future. I’m really hopeful that the class and final event will be a success and we can continue participating with the local schools and enriching our service to the community!