The Dareton Cooking Classes grew organically, with youths’ interest sprouting from one man cooking his dinner at the youth centre.
Not wanting to cook dinner once he got home, a staff member would often cook something for himself at the centre after spending the afternoon with 20 or more kids. After a while, he noticed that some of the youth became interested in what he was making.
He tried to share the food with the kids, but they didn’t want to taste it.
“Are we going to get poisoned if we eat this?”
Eventually, they did try the food. They didn’t get “poisoned”, but it did start a phenomenon at the youth centre.
With many of the youth walking in with chips and gravy every day, staff grew determined to change the eating habits of some of the kids, and the decision was made to start a cooking class.
The Dareton Youth Centre now run four cooking programs per week, with recipes that are varied and simple to replicate. The youth have cooked everything from soups, casseroles, stir fries, curries, pasta and frittatas, to Turkish barbeque, toasties, muffins and pancakes.
Now, when the youth arrive, the first thing many of them ask is, “what are we cooking today?” While not all are keen on cooking, everyone takes part in eating and cleaning up, and they are learning skills that will equip them for the future.
One of the most exciting observations that has been made, is that the social skills of the youths have significantly improved. This can be put down to the team nature of cooking, eating and cleaning up together, as well as the caring supervision and guidance provided at the centre.
While the youth may be oblivious to the important life lessons they’re learning, activities such as the cooking classes help the youth centre to continue doing what it’s doing — to develop the youth to become the best people they can be, and to positively contribute to the community.