Youth-farm-expands-cooking-classes-with-Tulane-students-help

Youth farm expands cooking classes with Tulane student's help

Deborah Willetts is learning all about kale this month. The nutritious leafy green is the focus of the Tulane public health graduate student's first cooking class this spring for the Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans. To highlight the vegetable's versatility, Willetts and local high school students will create three recipes: sautéed kale, kale chips, and a banana-kale smoothie.

"It's designed to teach students what to do with farm produce," Willetts said of the class curriculum.
Willetts was paired with Grow Dat through the Tulane Prevention Research Center's practicum internship program, which connects community groups, government offices and other health-related agencies with Tulane public health students every spring, summer and fall semester.

"She's highly organized, has a culinary background, and her public health training, all have been a really great combination of skills," said Johanna Gilligan, co-director at Grow Dat and Willett's supervisor. The practicum program also helps Grow Dat staffers by freeing up their time for other duties, Gilligan said. "It's great when it's a mutually beneficial relationship."

Willett's cooking classes, which will teach six to 12 students at a time, consist of 20 sessions this spring that Willetts helped develop for the up-and-coming urban farm program. The cooking classes will culminate in students preparing dishes for two community lunches, another new venture for the farm. Willetts also identified what type of equipment the class would need for a temporary setup at Grow Dat's new site, currently being constructed in City Park.

Though cooking classes at Whole Foods have been part of the Grow Dat program in the past, this year the students are getting a tailored cooking curriculum at the farm to address certain topics like nutrition, thanks to Willetts' work.

"The recipes and lessons she's created thus far look great," Gilligan said.

The 20 students and four assistant crew leaders were chosen through a formal interview process, much like a job. The participating high schools were picked based on their willingness to work with Grow Dat and the diversity their student populations could bring to the farm.

The Grow Dat spring program will also continue its practice of employing kids to work on the urban farm, build leadership skills, and then sell the produce.

"Everything they're doing is designed to give them skills to last a lifetime," Willetts said.

By Naomi King, Tulane PRC

(Photo courtesy of Grow Dat Youth Farm: TJ Brown, left, a student, and Johanna Gilligan, right, co-director at Grow Dat, prepare vegetables to sell at market. )

Topics:   nutrition , diet , agriculture , youth engagement

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