The Vetri Cooking Lab classes take place every Thursday at Martha’s Table. Each week, around 15 4th-6th graders learn how to make infused water, smoothies, pancakes, and much more.
John Cahill, Program Coordinator/Instructor at Martha’s Table, said: “I like to compare cooking to painting. There is a visceral joy and beauty in creating good food. Students get to experience a real practical sense of accomplishment. The spark I see in the kids at the Vetri Cooking lab, some of whom have been coming to Martha’s Table since they were very young children, is incredible. It’s exciting to see them get excited about learning about and preparing healthy foods. Haley [VCP’s instructor] is great at engaging the students. She brings an energy to the class that really piques their interests – even after a long day at school.”
Maureen Fitzgerald, of The Philadelphia Inquirer, connected us to the Vetri Community Partnership and, after an initial phone call, Caron Gremont, Director, Healthy Eating and Meku Adera, Assistant Director, Learning, Evaluation & Research, spent a fantastic day in Philadelphia touring a school partners with on Eatiquette and having lunch with Marlene Olshan, CEO, and Kelly Herrenkohl, COO, Vetri Community Partnership. We were so impressed with the family-style dining in the cafeteria and the leadership that the children displayed among the friends and teachers. And, of course, we enjoyed our fantastic lunch at Pizzeria Vetri afterward.
Like Martha’s Table, Vetri Community Partnership believes that food – and healthy food – has the power to change lives and that teaching children to cook is a life skill that must be taught and nurtured. With a shared mission, a partnership seemed like a natural fit. And, given our 36 years in the D.C. community, and Vetri’s arrival to D.C., it seemed we could teach each other and learn from each other.
The Vetri Cooking Lab program mirrors what we do here at Martha’s Table. Education is an important cornerstone of our work. Students are learning to prepare healthy foods and are trying things that perhaps they would not ordinarily try. Students not only get to understand the process, but they get to learn why it is important to eat healthy. We try to encourage changes in behavior that are lasting and impactful. When students take the time to chop veggies for their salads and learn about what goes into preparing different types of foods and treats, they seem to take pleasure in eating the foods they prepare. They are understanding and learning to appreciate the food preparation process.
At Martha’s Table, we believe that every child deserves the opportunity for their brightest future and a deeply engaged family and community committed to their success. For us, nutrition is an important aspect of achieving our desired outcomes. Nutrition is very much an educational issue; It can affect students’ aptitude and concentration. The students that participate are not only learning about healthy options, and helpful preparation techniques, they are also learning the “why” behind eating well.