Kids Take the Message Home in Seattle

Kids Cook Seattle UnivisionA trio of lucky students at Denny International Middle School got to be stars for a day when Univision Seattle came to do a story (Video)(link opens in new window) on American Heart Association’s (AHA) Kids Cook With Heart program.

The AHA teamed up with Seattle Parks and Recreation to bring our educational Kids Cook With Heart program to children in the area. Kaiser Permanente Washington funds the program locally. Program instructor and AHA volunteer Mary Irwin (pictured below) spent six weeks with students teaching them the basic skills required to prepare their own healthy meals at home.

“Middle schoolers who participate in this program are learning life skills that will serve them into adulthood. If we can impact them now on making healthy choices, it’s only going benefit them as they get older,” she says.

AHA spokesperson and Kaiser Permanente Washington physician Frida Peña Benítez, M.D. was interviewed for the Univision segment. She discussed the role of salt in hypertension and heart attacks, as well as a contributor to other cardiovascular diseases that are prevalent health problems in the Latino community.

Therefore, part of the program’s focus is to teach kids about those risks and give them alternatives to salty foods. Mary guides them toward positive food choices as suggested by the AHA’s Healthy For Good – Add Color program.

Mary Irwin“I suggest the kids eat a rainbow of foods every day to provide the nutrients they need and try to encourage them to engage all their senses as they cook to enhance the experience. Kids were receptive to the program and enjoyed making their own meals,” Mary adds. 

She starts the after-school curriculum with a familiar favorite – smoothies – so she can gauge the students’ chopping skills before they advance to preparing foods that require an open flame. Over the course of the program, the students make guacamole and tzatziki cucumber yogurt dips, whole wheat pancakes, chicken salad with vinaigrette dressing, pan-seared blackened fish with fruit salad and finally, turkey chili. Each child goes home with an apron and a reusable shopping bag full of the dry items to recreate the final chili dish at home.

The AHA hopes that our Kids Cook With Heart program instills a love for healthy food and home cooking that will not only build healthier hearts for the kids who participate but also influence their families’ eating habits when they share what they’ve learned.

One student took the message to heart. “I am taking this class to help my mom and my family with cooking,” she says.