29 May Adventures with Ami: Cooking in America
I’ve been blogging for Engine 2 for two years now. I’ve covered all kinds of topics, shared recipes, my favorite kitchen items and more over the years. I’ve had a lot of serious issues on my mind these days. I’ve also been sharing a bit about the boxing gym/youth program we have started as well. Recently, I’ve had a lot of conversations with parents and kids. The conversations with kids center around food. The conversations with parents center around money. In many cases recently the lack of both seems to be the issue. I have the pleasure of knowing dozens of kids from ages 6-25 (I’m in my 40’s – so 25 is a kid to me) – the kids come from all kinds of families, all kinds of income levels, but most of them are low income. Many from single parent households. In several instances, even though the single parent is working two jobs, it simply isn’t enough. Not enough to provide the way they would like to any way. Many parents find that they rely on the free and reduced school breakfast/lunch program to help provide nutritious meals for their kids. We all know that the school lunch program could be more nutritious, but at least it is a meal, sometimes two if the school participates in a breakfast program. I know for me growing up, at times I qualified for free or reduced lunch as well. This program is fantastic… until summer comes. Having hungry kids at home all day throughout the summer can stretch the family budget no mater how big or small it may be.
Salvation for many can be found in discount grocers, big box stores that carry food items and for some the local food bank can be of assistance as well. Buying only what’s easy and what is cheap or on sale can be the beginning of trouble for the health of our children. In some cases, a working parent needs easy items that are kid friendly for kids that are home by themselves during the day in the summertime. Whether this is ideal or not, it’s a reality for thousands of American families. Most of the cheap and easy stuff is highly processed, loaded with fat and sugar, artificial ingredients and really teeters on being non-food. However, not all cheap stuff has to be unhealthy. Dried beans, lentils, rice, pasta and frozen fruits and vegetables can be really economical, create many more meals than a pre-packaged ready to eat meal for the same price or less. Plus you get more meals out of it. The missing link seems to be… “How do you make that?”
Having a conversation with one of the parents I have the pleasure of knowing, reveals that most young folks today have no formal classes in school when it comes to cooking. She doesn’t cook much – not from scratch any way. Preferring packaged goods and ready made meals. Heat and eat foods that require no preparation. Most of the stuff contains little in the way of nutrition, but is ample when it comes to easy. Aging myself I’m sure… but we had home economics in school when I was growing up. We learned the basics of cooking, budgeting, shopping and sewing. Even saying this now seems antiquated a bit in today’s fast paced high tech world. But is it? If parents are busy working and are picking up take out more often than they would like and kids are busy with soccer, dance, AP classes and other extra-curricular activities…how will they ever learn how to cook?
I know that this doesn’t include everyone. many of you work with your kids to teach them basic skills in the kitchen. Some schools do have culinary classes as well. However, overwhelmingly, most young adults are headed out into the world without a shred of know how beyond ramen noodles and heating up a frozen pizza. I discover this time and time again when I have classes with them. Along the way over the past 25 years, we’ve grown monumentally in technology, with the internet at our fingertips daily and yet, we have seemingly tossed aside some basic skills required for healthy survival in today’s world.
What are you doing in your family to ensure your kids learn how to cook? What is being done in your schools? Are there avenues for learning in your community? How could you help those in your community learn how to cookhealthy meals? I would love to hear your ideas on how we can help change the tide of convenience foods and lean toward better nutrition through cooking on a budget.