The Fresh From Scratch initiative was launched in 2009 as an answer to a growing concern that many children and youth were not getting regular access to fresh, healthy, foods. Although this is a concern across North America, it was identified that due to food security issues, children and youth in the North were more susceptable to nutritional concerns.
The initiative was first introduced to the teen Drop In Centre program. Afternoon snacks and meals moved away from pre-processed foods and treats and were replaced by fresh fruit, vegetables, freshly baked breads and muffins, from scratch tomato sauces, and even fresh made pasta. As our youth workers gained experience dishes became more complex. Soon we were making flavoured pastas, pita bread, alfredo sauce, teriyaki sauce, chicken pot pies, and even our own condiments. Yes, the youth were a little squeemish at first, but it wasn't long before they discovered that fresh and from scratch tastes so much better! Soon we had youth in the kitchen next to us. Culinary programs were launched where youth learned about nutrition, grocery shopping (and budgetting!) skills, culinary skills, and were empowered to take hold of their own nutritional health. Youth baked, broiled, barbequed, and basted... and had a great time doing it! It wasn't long before this became a staple of our Drop In Centre programming.
In the following year the Weekday Warriors program was launched, and the Fresh From Scratch initiative was embedded into the program. Healthy snacks made with fresh ingredients are prepared every day for the program. This also brought on a new challenge. How could we keep kids happy, but still make sure that they were getting the proper nutrition. There's only so many days we could serve veggies, fruit, or healthy muffins. The answer... Black Bean Brownies! They look like brownies, taste like brownies, but are full of nutrients! This was one of the first recipes we found that allowed us to pass off healthy food as the treats that children and youth so desperately crave. Soon our staff began finding new ways to hide nutrition in the food we were serving. Of course, our participants eventually figured it out. We didn't think we could get away with this forever. But, as it turned out, they didn't mind. We started getting requests from awe struck parents for our recipes, along with comments like "You got my kid to eat broccoli?! How?"
The Fresh From Scratch initiative uses our own internally created guidelines, in conjunction with the Canada Food Guide. All food we serve is prepared in our Foodsafe commercial grade kitchen. As the initiatives continues we push to find new ways to prepare snacks and meals from fresh and from scratch, expanding our recipe bank, and always challenging ourselves. This initiative not only ensure that youth are eating healthy, but also teaches about food security, healthy and sustainable living, and inspires the joy of cooking.
We would also like to thank the President's Choice Children's Charity for their immense support for this initiative!