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Grantee Blog

From Campers to Chefs

This August, Isles hosted Camp Carrot, a three week long summer camp dedicated to getting kids excited about nutrition, physical fitness, and environmental stewardship. Since Camp Carrot is based in a fruit and vegetable garden, we took advantage of the abundance of produce available and worked to emphasize growing and preparing healthy foods with our campers. Recognizing that mealtime can be an enormous learning opportunity, campers prepared a new recipe for lunch everyday while learning about flavor combinations, practicing using culinary tools, and most importantly, trying foods for the first time. They were engaged in every aspect of preparing their meal, from harvesting garden vegetables, to processing tomatoes to make sauce from scratch, to enthusiastically kneading dough to make pizza.

Although watching kids get excited about cooking is rewarding, it’s not always clear whether or not they are retaining the information. So after three weeks of camp, it was time for our campers to put their new cooking skills to the test in the form of a cooking competition. The kids divided into three teams. They had three hours to prepare their food, could use anything from the garden, and each team got to choose 3 specialty items which included beans, lemons and limes, tortillas, and an assortment of herbs and spices.

After several intense hours, we were presented with a display of culinary mastery. There was a spicy massaged kale salad that contained shredded carrots, corn, and the perfect amount of chili powder. Another group presented us with black beans seasoned to perfection with garlic, cumin, and jalapenos served on grilled tortillas. Yet another group presented us with raspberry lemonade that contained the perfect balance of sweet and sour to refresh the palate on a sweltering August afternoon. We were impressed. It turns out that our campers were not only paying attention, they had transformed into chefs in three weeks.

About the Grantee

Isles Inc.

Founded in 1981, Isles, Inc. is a community development and environmental organization based in Trenton, New Jersey. With a mission to foster self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities, we design and develop effective services that support this mission and share what we learn with others who can make a difference.