Teaching West Humboldt Park’s Kids to Cook (and Eat Their Veggies!)

Apr 4, 2019

Children at The Salvation Army Freedom Center in West Humboldt Park are learning a recipe for success and a healthy lifestyle.

Major Nancy Powers, corps officer at the Freedom Center, quotes several studies that show nearly three-quarters of the people who live in West Humboldt Park are food insecure.

When an elementary school principal told her that half of the third graders at the school take care of their siblings, Major Nancy was struck that “a child so young would have the responsibility of caring for their family.”

That’s why The Salvation Army is offering a variety of cooking classes including family cooking, adult cooking, using food pantry ingredient classes, and children's classes. Near North Health Service Corporation and Northwestern Medicine make the children's classes possible by leading and funding the class, and providing all materials.

On a recent Monday afternoon, six children took a seat in the Freedom Center kitchen. The instructor, Jacqueline Stutsman, a Near North Health Service Corporation registered dietitian, introduced them to a number of vegetables. The young chefs sampled raw and cooked green beans, carrots and peppers, and learned the difference in taste and feel.

“My goal is to have them be exposed to different fruits and vegetables in hopes of them choosing these for themselves first, when they’re outside of class, and also for their families,” Stutsman said.

After learning proper food preparation and handling, the children made healthy turkey veggie wraps, complete with homemade ranch dressing.  

“They’re going to learn how to make something that they can take home and make for their family,” Powers said. “Something nutritious but very tasty that includes vegetables in a way that is easy to eat, that is fun, and that will have flavorful elements.”

The emphasis on vegetables appears to be making an impact. Nine-year-old Eric Franklin has been attending the classes for more than a year.

“My favorite thing to make is soup with vegetables in it,” Franklin said. Franklin says he’d like to be a chef when he grows up.

The class is free to children and held every other week at the Freedom Center.




The Salvation Army, with generous support from its donors and volunteers, is on the front lines of the Fight for Good, battling hunger, homelessness, violence, hopelessness and more - every day. Programs such as cooking classes help families develop healthy eating habits and build stronger family bonds. Join us today in the Fight for Good. The Fight is Now.

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