Program teaches kids in “food deserts” how to grow and cook healthier meals

A New York City program has found the perfect recipe for helping kids eat healthier. 

At a basketball court at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Harlem, a makeshift kitchen is set up for a group of young chefs in the making. The nonprofit Harlem Grown is teaching them how to grow and cook vegetables. The kids are using fresh, local produce, which is not easy to find in many communities. 

Harlem Grown founder Tony Hillery says “food deserts” — communities where nutritious options are scarce — lead to a lifetime of health problems. Hillery said healthy options in this neighborhood are “few and far between.” The options are “usually fast, cheap, empty calories and unhealthy,” he said. 

“You see this in every poor community in this country. It’s not Black, White and Brown. But it is poor,” he added. 

But here, kids get their first taste of their own healthy cooking. They got a lesson in curries and made vegetable couscous. The ingredients included cauliflower, onions and peppers.

Messiah Franklin-Johnson, a 10-year-old participating in the program, said it’s helping him get pretty good at cooking. 

“If you eat healthy, then you’re going to keep on inspiring more people to be healthy, and soon enough, the whole world’s going to be healthy,” Franklin-Johnson said.