Chef Jimmy McDermott is spreading excitement about healthy eating, one dozen students at a time. Jimmy is a leader with the Cook it. Try it. Like it! program, an afterschool program offered in the Interior Health region that promotes healthy eating habits to students through experiential learning. He leads five weekly sessions with students in grades 4-6, teaching them about food skills, kitchen and food safety, nutrition, balanced eating, and sustainable food systems.
In the first week of the program, Jimmy talks about food safety and knife skills with the students and gets them busy chopping vegetables to make mini-pizzas. He notes that when students are learning about food hands-on and having fun, they become incredibly engaged and excited to take more ownership over their food choices. Engagement is a key ingredient for achieving the overall goal of the program: getting youth involved in preparing and eating healthy food. Although Jimmy is a passionate chef and sustainable food advocate, he notes this program is not just about the food:
It’s about building families and bringing them closer together. It makes a difference when kids are spending even just 20 minutes preparing dinner with their families.
Cook it. Try it. Like it! began in Kamloops in 2011 with support from Interior Health and in partnership with the City of Kamloops and School District 73. It has since been adopted by several other school boards within the Interior Health region. The program is supported by the Community Food Action Initiative as well as other funders inspired by a shared goal of integrating food skills learning in schools.
Cook it. Like it. Try it! has effects beyond its initial goal, as students bring a passion for cooking and healthy eating back into their homes and classroom. Public Health Dietician Rose Soneff, of Interior Health, describes these effects:
The kids are so pumped about what they learn. They go home and say, did you know we put spinach in our drinks and corn on our pizza! To me, it ripples beyond the 12 students in the class to the volunteers who are helping, the families including younger siblings in the home, and other students in the class saying, I want to be in that program!
Rose and Jimmy share a vision for the continued expansion of the program to every school district in the region. A strength of the program is its adaptability as there is potential to go from offering the optional, afterschool program to integrating the material as part of the curriculum. Jimmy is excited that some teachers have already incorporated Cook it. Try it. Like it! lessons into their classroom, with the support of the Cook it. Like it. Try it! Guide for Program Leaders. This free resource is an accessible, informative guide on how to successfully implement the program.
Key outcomes and impact
- Investing in youth as future consumers and cooks in their families impacts healthy eating, food security, and the local food system
- Students bring knowledge and skills from the program back to their homes and families for even greater impact outside the classroom
- Some teachers are incorporating the program’s lessons into regular class curriculum
- Experiential learning is key for students to retain and feel excited about their new knowledge and skills
- A relatively small amount of funding can inspire and leverage other program funders for greater collective impact
- Programs that encourage children to cook and learn about food and nutrition can promote the development of healthy eating habits
Key Partners and Funders
- Community Food Action Initiative
- Interior Health Authority
- City of Kamloops
- School District 73
- School District 74
- Nutrition Link Services
- Royal Inland Hospital Foundation
- United Way
For more information about this initiative
- Cook it. Try it. Like it! Guide for Program Leaders is available to help others implement this program in their communities