Jr. / Teen Battle Chef
A Youth Development Program exploring culinary, nutrition, food systems and gardening education, while battling obesity and chronic disease.
Jr. / Teen Battle Chef empowers youth to challenge themselves on a skills level while practicing being part of team effort. Young people develop leadership, teamwork, and culinary skills while gaining nutrition knowledge and a new appreciation for diverse, healthy and sustainably-produced food. Most importantly, Teen Battle Chef students become agents of change, sharing their new cooking skills and excitement for healthy eating with their friends and family one recipe at a time!
The evidence-based curriculum was developed in 2003 and is now active in over 100 schools and sites across the U.S. It is designed to be implemented by schools, community groups, and even farms. By training and certifying the staff or volunteers at such organizations, we effectively embed this critical hands-on food and nutrition education in communities where it is most needed to address the growing obesity problem in youth.
Teen Battle Chef is a semester-long program. The initial 8-9 weeks involve basic culinary/nutrition skill training through weekly sessions where two teams of up to 6 youth collaborate to prep a recipe from a designated culture. Along with the recipe, each team is given a basic knife skills ‘clinic’ (by facilitating adult), recipe technique coaching, cultural and nutritional background on the recipe and all the equipment and ingredients. Working against the clock, each team responds with a presentation, to demonstrate their recipe – just like in a TV show, describing its cultural background and nutritional value for the other team and any school audience. No fancy kitchen is necessary: “Teen Battle Chef” is designed for the most basic learning environment (or in school kitchens during off hours).
The second half of the semester is where the students take their new skills out into their school and local community. As leaders with newly-acquired skills and enthusiasm for a wide range of healthy ingredients and farm-to-table recipes, they support their peers, parents/PTA, and school staff, to explore ‘their inner chef’ and learn to cook with fresh ingredients.
Some enterprising Teen Battle Chefs volunteer their time outside their school as well, teaching younger students in preschools, elementary schools, or shoppers in farmers markets, the elderly in Adult Homes. The list goes on and on.
Key characteristics include:
The program has two sets of goals, one set for the students and the other for the sponsoring organization. Student goals include: increased self-confidence, improved public speaking, healthier food choices, and becoming role models for those around them.
Organizational goals include: increased student attendence, improved grades, greater teamwork. Each organization can add or modify this list of goals to best suit their health and wellness objectives.
Each summer, our Teen Battle Chef Summer Internship Brigade is yet another extension of the program we offer to our to our partners who run the program to provide a summer employment and mentoring experience for the top TBC students.
The entire semester-long program is designed to complement school gardening activities. Sites running TBC who have gardens benefit from the wealth of additional garden to table recipes included as well as ‘Snacks in a Snap’ activities.
Guidelines are provided for a celebratory finale, where students develop their Final Battle themselves, creating their own recipes, researching on the Internet, and inviting family, friends, school food chef and other guests to judge!
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