El Nido’s Cooking Group Builds Skills for Youth

Posted by on Jul 25, 2019 in News | 1 comment

Youth have been cooking up something special at our El Nido campus! “Cooking Group” brings dinner to the table each week, all year long. But it’s much more than preparing and eating a meal. This activity allows young participants to come together in a collaborative, meaningful way, while building life skills in a variety of areas.

Hathaway-Sycamores Cooking Class

By working together to prepare for each meal, youth develop social skills and teaming. They decide on the type of food they would like to eat, then with staff’s guidance, choose a recipe for their cooking skill level. They write a grocery list together and stick to a budget. This means learning money management skills, keeping track of what’s been spent and utilizing resources like coupons and grocery ads to find sales.

When it comes to cooking, all youth have the chance to try every step in the recipe after watching how to do it safely. Then the steps are split up amongst the youth. This builds skills in the kitchen, so each youth knows how to prepare meals in the future for themselves or with friends and family.

Once the meal is ready, the kids set the table—family style with placemats, utensils and plates. Everyone sits down together and serves food—no eating allowed until everyone is seated and served! There’s an opportunity for the group to say a word, grace, prayer and then it’s time to eat. Dinner is about conversation. The youth discuss what was learned from the cooking experience, they share about the school day and their plans and goals for the week.

“At the end, I encourage them to think of recipes or ideas they would like to try in the future,” explains Fernel Vasquez, Facilitator, Short Term Residential Treatment Program. “The boys like to reminisce about meals they enjoyed with their families in the past and I welcome this.”

Beyond the delicious meal, the healthy ingredients, and the skill-building, Cooking Group creates a sense of community and family.  “We always make a lot of food,” explains Fernel. “I do this so the youth can invite staff they would like to have over for dinner. I think it’s awesome that they can share something they create with someone they care about as part of the emotional development we foster here. The boys usually invite the unit staff or their clinician. We all sit down and enjoy the meal to further promote their self-esteem and self-efficacy.”

Hathaway-Sycamores Cooking Class

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  1. Kevin

    Scrumdillicious!!! I’ve been able to enjoy some of those culinary delights.

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