Fun With Jumbo’s Kitchen

By Dawn Undurraga

A crisp broccoli spear clutched by the feisty seven-year-old hand of Rashawn meets with a bowl of freshly creamed chickpeas, “Hummus!” he shouts out with glee right before the broccoli spear disappears, “Yummy!”

Sound like a fantasy? It’s not. It’s just another typical Friday afternoon in Jumbo’s Kitchen.

Every Friday throughout the Boston Public School year, Tufts students carpool down to one of three elementary schools in Dorchester to teach an after-school cooking class.

Dorchester is a nearby community full of health disparities, not the least of which is childhood obesity. Part of the Tufts experience is that of active citizenship, and as graduate students in the health sciences, we have the skills to provide nutrition education to these children and increase their cooking confidence. They will need these skills to navigate an environment that often makes it difficult to maintain a healthy diet.

Jumbo’s Kitchen is taught to a group of 14 second- and third-grade students in rotations of five to seven weeks. During each class the students prepare a different healthy snack based on a MyPyramid food group. Each recipe emphasizes whole grains, fruits, or vegetables. Fruit kabobs with yogurt dip may introduce the kids to the fruit group, while brown rice vegetable sushi introduces them to the grain group. Students also learn how to use a multitude of kitchen utensils: from measuring cups and can openers, to peelers and apple corers.

Meanwhile, Tufts students who volunteer for Jumbo’s Kitchen gain valuable classroom experience. Depending on their comfort level, students can opt to develop a lesson plan from scratch, teach the opening nutrition lesson, or just tag along as an assistant. Volunteers also learn practical classroom management skills in a supportive environment facilitated by the after-school personnel. It’s truly a hands-on learning experience for both the elementary and Tufts students!

Jumbo’s Kitchen, a newly minted student group at the Friedman school, was formed in collaboration with the local non-profit community-based organization, DotWell, and Tufts students. The group is funded in part through the generosity of DotWell and the Friedman Student Council.

Volunteers are always needed! Interested in joining? Check us out or sign up at http://groups.google.com/group/jumboskitchen

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