Dinner Program at The Warehouse
By Catherine Whitnall (Courtesy of Kawartha Lakes This Week)
For the most part, a home cooked meal trumps fast food any day of the week. Just ask the youths who head to The Warehouse Youth Centre weekdays around 4 p.m. where a unique new meal program is giving them a leg up on some of their peers. The centre, which is linked to BGC Kawarthas but has its own programming as well as its own entrance, has been offering local youth up to age 18 the chance to learn more about cooking while also enjoying hot, healthy, homemade meals.
“We’ve had cooking programs here before but our youth wanted more of a say in what was happening in the kitchen,” said Reach youth support worker. “So that’s what we did. We gave them total free rein.”
As a result, the youth plan everything associated with the daily evening meal; the menu, budget, preparation, cooking and even cleaning.
Those who are interested in taking part simply sign up for a job and, in exchange, get to eat free of charge. Those who opt out can purchase a meal for $2.
“It’s a great deal,” said the support worker, “given that a tasty meal isn’t the only benefit. They’re learning so many life skills,” she said. “They’re boosting their math skills by learning how to budget their money. They’re learning how to get along with others and working as a team. Both are important because we can sometimes have anywhere from 10 to 20 people in the kitchen at once.”
Youths are also learning more about healthy choices and especially how easy it is to make a nutritious meal; recent menus have featured vegetable macaroni soup and grilled cheese, cinnamon oatmeal pancakes, chicken pot pie and salad, and pita pizzas.
The centre feeds between 20 to 40 youth daily on a modest budget of $150 a week.
The City of Kawartha Lakes is a low income area with high unemployment and a large youth population that are living in less than ideal situations. Many are “couch surfers”, unemployed, struggling to stay in school or finish their education.
This area is one of the highest for teen pregnancy, drug use and mental health issues. The Warehouse Youth Centre is a place where youth can come and get hot meals, friendship, life skills and access to supports. The youth themselves are unable to pay for the program fees, but the Warehouse doesn’t turn anyone away so the financial burden is on the Club to subsidize these costs. When youth aren’t hungry they are more open to the possibility of other supports and making better life choices.
In addition to nutrition, youth can access physical fitness, education and employment, mental health supports and leadership opportunities.