Kids learn cooking, coping skills with hands-on program

Published 10:00 pm Monday, August 1, 2016

Kids at Work! is an after-school program led by a chef and a therapist designed to help kids (age 12-17) learn the techniques of cooking while building better methods of communication.

It is a hands-on, exciting and unique way for them to learn and apply academic and social concepts. Additionally, the kids learn about nutrition and how a healthy diet contributes to a greater well being.

The Kids at Work! program utilizes the model program, “Say it Straight,” to improve assertive communication and conflict resolution skills, an art that is leaving much of our youth’s culture, advantaged or at-risk combined.

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This after-school program is also a great way for teens to gain the skills they need, and when they are ready, to get hired for a job. Participants do not have to be enrolled in school to participate.

Polk County has a Kids at Work! program beginning its third year here and it takes place weekly at the Community’s Kitchen in Tryon. Manna Cabanna is a supporting partner and volunteers, nearly weekly, to be on site during their classes and by donating unclaimed CSA share pick-ups so that they can also be cooking with local and organic fresh ingredients.

The kids come from various home settings that may or may not have two parents in the household, and/or where they are not necessarily receiving home-cooked meals every day in their lives or rarely at all.

Other circumstances may have marginalized these kids socially or within their school lives. The Kids at Work! program provides youth-empowered solutions to show them pathways into adulthood that can still provide a sustainable livelihood with job skills in the food industry, and with interpersonal skills to be able to more successfully navigate relationships.

The program accepts volunteers and food donations, especially fresh and local ingredients including meats, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads and dairy products. The kids are in the midst of raising money by offering pop-up food stands as they have to raise certain monies to continue to be eligible for certain larger overhead sustaining grant monies.

Their current specialty is gourmet grilled cheeses! Yum! They can also do full-on catering events and Manna Cabanna helps them source those ingredients farm-to-table style as a menu offering.

Shoot me an email at if you’d like to donate or have a need for a caterer or a pop-up food tent at your next event. The kids come out in full chef uniforms and they are very good at what they do!