Since November 2012, Lettuce Link has staffed an educator position at Concord International Elementary in South Park. This position has worked in collaboration with an Apple Corps AmeriCorps member to teach hands-on nutrition education in classrooms and at nearby Marra Farm. Our presence at Concord has expanded how Lettuce Link improves access to fresh produce: not simply growing it, but through sharing and building skills in preparing food.
However, the most recent series of classes at Concord hasn’t been taught by us, Concord teachers, local chefs, or adults in the community. In fact, the teachers aren’t even elementary school graduates.
Fourth Grade Cooks: A Kid-led Community Kitchen
Thanks to a grant from the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition, this spring Lettuce Link began coordinating a monthly community kitchen at Concord, where students instruct their families and teachers in preparing simple, nutritious, and affordable recipes.
Community kitchens are bubbling up all across Seattle, with the common creed that food is better when shared and that we all have something to learn in the kitchen.
How it Works
- Students create a three-course menu by voting for their favorite recipes out of all the ones they prepared during their nutrition classes the past year.
- Cristina Rebellon, Apple Corps nutrition educator, and Amelia Swinton, Lettuce Link education coordinator, assign a role to each fourth grader – chef, nutrition teacher, or server. Students change roles each month.
- The chefs practice cooking the recipe, the servers decorate a bilingual menu and prepare some information about the food’s history or country of origin, and the nutrition teachers review the food groups and nutrients contained within the meal. Each group gives a practice presentation and receives feedback from their peers. For example, the chefs might hear, “Please add more salt to this dish next time!” or the nutrition teachers might be informed that “We would like more information about the vitamins in this salad.”
- Once the students have practiced their parts in this culinary orchestra and are ready to lead, they gather in the evening with their families and teachers and prepare a meal for everyone to share.
Youth Leadership in Action
This project exemplifies the importance of Solid Ground’s anti-racism work. Within Lettuce Link’s department, the Hunger Action Center, we organize as a “Change Team” to examine how our work perpetuates racism and oppression. We then work to interrupt and transform these dynamics within our programs.
Amplifying community voice and leadership is an ongoing goal of our department. By asking Fourth Grade Cooks students to teach their peers and families, we help to not only build their skills in nutrition and cooking, but also develop them as young leaders in the community.
Come Join Us!
Want to see what Fourth Grade Cooks is all about? Adult helpers are appreciated, especially as dishwashers! The next kitchen will take place on Friday, May 10, from 5:30–8:00pm. Contact Amelia, firstname.lastname@example.org, for details.
Many thanks to the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition for helping fund this project! This grant has also seeded several other new Lettuce Link projects at Marra Farm, including the formation of a community-run chicken cooperative, family work parties in the children’s garden, and a summer, outdoor community kitchen focused on improvising with seasonal produce. Learn about the other grantees.
Community kitchens take many different forms. Within South Park, for example, there are two other community kitchens: one geared towards teens (modeled after the FEEST program), and one tailored to Latina mothers. Find a community kitchen in your neighborhood.
Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons brown sugar
6 cups green cabbage, shredded
8-oz can crushed tomatoes
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
4 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable broth
Salt to taste (optional)
Black pepper to taste
Plain yogurt (optional)
- Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are soft.
- Stir in brown sugar and cabbage. Cook for 5 minutes, or until cabbage is soft.
- Add tomatoes, vinegar, water and broth; bring to a boil.
- Season with salt, if desired. Add pepper to taste. Lower heat and simmer about 20 minutes, uncovered, or until cabbage is tender.
- Adjust seasonings, if necessary, by adding more brown sugar or vinegar. Serve with a spoonful of plain yogurt on top.
Makes 8 servings