Cathryn Williamson is a Salvation Army officer (minister) at Cowra (NSW), an award-winning cook and author of several recipe books. She’s also the brains behind “Salvos Kids in the Kitchen”.
What is Salvos Kids in the Kitchen?
It’s a 10-week program designed to introduce school-aged children (from 8–12 years of age) to cooking through hands-on demonstrations and making them feel comfortable in the kitchen while developing valuable life skills.
But there is so much more to the program than just learning to cook: it’s about healthy eating and diet; it’s about numeracy and literacy; it’s about building connections with the families of these kids; it’s about providing a safe-space for the children and it’s about sharing Jesus.
What do the kids do during their 10 weeks with Salvos Kids in the Kitchen?
We equip them with the skills to make meals from scratch and select ingredients they need to make healthy choices and tasty food for the whole family. They learn to cook meals such as hamburgers, macaroni cheese, chicken noodle stir fry and spaghetti bolognaise.
They learn kitchen and food safety, basic cooking skills, budgeting, healthy meal planning, kitchen cleanliness and teamwork. We also encourage them to experiment with new foods and foster creativity, confidence, self-esteem.
On the last evening of the program, the children invite their parents and siblings to a celebration evening where they cook fried rice for their family. We all eat together and they are presented with their completion certificates.
Why did you start the program?
Parents are so busy that they often don’t have time to teach kids how to cook. I love working with kids and I love to cook, so to combine the two and have a ministry through that has been a blessing. This program is also about showing God’s love to the children, so I Iead a short, simple devotion during the cooking demonstration by linking an ingredient, technique or piece of cooking equipment to the Christian faith.
What do families love about Salvos Kids in the Kitchen?
I’ve had lots of positive feedback from the families involved. Many of our participants have started cooking meals at home under the supervision of their parents. One of the parents even sends photos of her children cooking at home. I had one mum tell me recently that they often pull out the recipe cards and cook something from them. I love that kids come to learn to cook simple meals and that many continue to cook them for their families.
How many children have taken part in Salvos Kids in the Kitchen?
We’ve run the program for seven school terms in Cowra and have had almost 100 different kids attend. Some of them have come for more than one term.
Tell us how the program is expanding.
I’ve had many inquiries from people about starting the program in their area, so I put together some starter kits, with the assistance of The Salvation Army mission department. The kits include reusable recipe cards, enough completion badges and aprons for 12 children, leaders’ aprons and T-shirts, and a leader’s manual.
The program has been successfully run in places like Bundaberg and Warwick (Qld) and Gunnedah and Coffs Harbour (NSW), with more Salvation Army corps (churches) planning on starting next year. There are also plans to develop an ‘advanced’ program as well as an adult version.