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Center of Hope Family Services - News & Updates

Center of Hope Cooking Classes Helping Parents, Students Fight COVID-19 and Food Insecurity

Life skills, literacy, culture, community, collaboration, and etiquette, all baked into a fun and engaging experience

Innovative cooking activity funded by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) as part of the company’s ongoing COVID-19 response

August 31, 2020, Toledo, Ohio -- When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the education of children in our country changed radically overnight.

Without warning, students, teachers, and parents were thrust out of classrooms and into the new and unfamiliar world of online education.

From the beginning, educators could see that engaging students in this new format was going to be a challenge.

Center of Hope Family Services responded with an innovative addition to its ELEVATE program which was designed to keep parents and students active learning—cooking lessons.

Funded with the support of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA), the cooking lessons were more than just nutrient-rich—they were designed to be curriculum-rich as well.

Noting that many parents say they have trouble getting their children to eat vegetables, Willetta Perryman, the COO of Center of Hope Family Services and the teacher of the cooking classes said that the strategy was to “embed vegetables into food that children already love and to teach them to expect vegetables to be vegetables and not dessert.”

Watch Cooking with Mrs. P. in action:

The program has been successful. The intergenerational activity involved parents and their children and was one of the first times any of them had completed a school assignment they could eat. In total, some 40 families have been provided 2,000 meals.

“Just like there’s nutrition in those vegetables, there is also rigorous educational content in the cooking activity,” said Dr. Tracee Perryman, CEO of Center of Hope. “We taught life skills, literacy, culture, community, collaboration, and etiquette, all baked into a fun and engaging experience.”

Perhaps more important than anything else, students learned that they could turn challenges into opportunities. “Maybe they thought they didn’t like vegetables. Maybe they thought they couldn’t cook,” said Dr. Perryman. “But when they found they did like vegetables and they could cook, they got a lesson into breaking down barriers that will help them be the best people they can be.”

Program funding was provided by FCA as part of an initiative to address youth food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “There has never been a more important moment to help children and their families with vital needs in our communities than during this time of great uncertainty," said FCA CEO Mike Manley when announcing the company’s commitment (in March) to provide more than 1 million meals to school-age children in North America.

Through its partnership with Center of Hope Family Services and other non-profit organizations, FCA has provided more than 4.8 million meals to children, families, and seniors, including more than 2 million meals to school-age children.

“We are incredibly thankful to Fiat Chrysler Automobiles,” Dr. Perryman concluded. “Their commitment to our communities and our children made a real difference, and we thank them.”