We’re the “Model Site” of the Citywide Community CookShop Program

Community CookShop is a joint venture program of the Food Bank for New York City and the Mario Batali Foundation. It is based on the idea that hands-on learning has the power to equip families who want to be healthy. The key objectives of this endeavor are (1) to teach parents and guardians how to get the best value for every dollar as they seek to keep their family healthy and satisfied on a tight budget, and (2) to teach children how to make nutritious meals for themselves from the healthier options their parents and guardians are learning about.

It’s a very family-oriented health and nutrition education program that engages parents and guardians alongside their children in practicing strategies together that will maximize household food dollars. Apart from enhancing both budgeting and preparation skills, participants in the program learn tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and prepare tasty recipes developed by Chef Mario Batali. An offshoot of the Food Bank’s highly successful “CookShop” program—launched in 2005 by former Food Bank CEO, Dr. Lucy Cabrera as a program for Elementary Schools—The River Fund has been a partner in Community CookShop for four years. The underlying philosophy endeavors to foster enthusiasm and appreciation for wholesome, accessible foods at an early age, while simultaneously stimulating budget-consciousness and nutritional awareness as tools for life.

Community CookShop is offered in an eight-week curriculum during the Summer School Break when children can attend with their parents and guardians. Families sit together and prepare meals under the direction of trained team members. The program provides educational materials, utensils and ingredients to prepare the recipes.

At The River Fund, additional hands-on learning aids are used to help children grasp nutritional concepts and relate the principles of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “MyPlate” and “Food Pyramid” systems to their daily eating habits. Further, participating families get a full week’s supply of groceries to take home with them at the end of each session.

This year, in 2013, The Mario Batali Foundation and The Food Bank for New York City agreed on a process to review Community CookShop sites through an independent quality assessment organization. Surveyors were dispatched to sites in all five City boroughs. At the end of this assessment, The River Fund New York emerged as “the model site” for the entire program—setting the standard in creative application of the syllabus, enthusiastic engagement by the participants, and consist attendance by the families as units.

Congratulations to Shirley Rice, our Chief Operating Officer, and Felisha DaSilva, our Office Manager, for harnessing this program and steering it from year to year towards this successful outcome!