Two women standing on either side of five kids holding various kitchen untensils

From left are Shallan Dament, Town of Petawawa Recreation Programmer, Micah Ballah, Wyatt Taylor, Andrew Kruschenske, Sam Laderoute, Carter Hannaford and Supervising Chef Joliene Hussick. (Submitted photo)

280 meals donated to Petawawa Pantry Food Bank by Cooking It Forward

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday January 13, 2022

Cooking It Forward teaches kids important skills in the kitchen.

This Town of Petawawa program opens the Petawawa Civic Centre kitchen to youth interested in the art of cooking, providing them with the necessary skills to make healthy, affordable meals.

The most recent group of eight apprentice chefs attended the program once a week for a month. Not only did they learn how to combine ingredients to make tasty dishes, but it was entirely hands-on - they were in charge of the washing, cutting, boiling, baking, frying and plating of the meals they made.

And other than what they ate themselves, they donated the food to the Petawawa Pantry Food Bank.

“So far, we are looking at 280 meals that we were able to make and bring over there,” said Shallan Dament, Recreation Programmer.

She added this is the perfect program for these kids to give back. Not only do they learn kitchen safety and cooking skills, they are also helping those in need receive delicious, healthy meals.

Hyska’s Your Independent Grocer (YIG) donated the bulk of the food, and the food bank requested they make recipes with ingredients commonly found in their hampers. Items like lentils, barley and beans that may not be appealing to some were transformed under these kids’ skillful hands.

“These are ingredients that people often don’t know how to cook or don’t feel comfortable cooking,” said Dament, “so that’s the base of each meal.”

Through utter coincidence, all the donated meals have been nut and dairy-free, which is ideal for those with food allergies. And though the menu wasn’t familiar to the budding chefs at first, they were sold once they tried their creations.

“Every single one of them has loved what they cooked, so it also gives them the opportunity to try something new, something they’ll love,” said Dament.

The participants were all eight-year-olds at the time of the program, learning kitchen skills that many adults do not possess in a supervised, safe environment.

Reaction to the program, and the provided meals, has been overwhelmingly positive, with the food bank confirming their patrons adore these ready-made meals.

Hyska’s YIG also provided the packaging for the donated meals.

“Cooking it Forward aligns with our vision of creating food lovers from a young age and exposing them to ingredients and a love of cooking and food,” said Hyska’s YIG owner Val Hyska. “This program allows them to develop important life skills while paying it forward with nutritious and delicious donations for the Petawawa Pantry Food Bank.”

She plans to divert some of the store’s produce and ingredients that would otherwise go to waste into freezer stock for the program.

“A win for the program and less waste at the store,” said Hyska.