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Cooking Together: Better Nutrition, Budgeting, Creativity, and Connection

Cooking with Gabby is a Mentor Up initiative in Los Angeles that brings youth and older people together to learn to prepare nutritious meals & combat hunger. We can learn a lot from this initiative because it starts with something that naturally brings people together: food! This mentoring model levels the playing field between youth and adult as they learn something new together. It also addresses one of today's most pressing needs among young and old, better nutrition. Youth gain both hard and soft skills they'll use throughout their lives. Seniors learn to prepare some of their favorite meals according to a healthful, sustainable, and affordable diet. Finally, it may complement existing operations at local schools or community farms.

Photo of Jocelyn West
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Cooking is a highly creative process with a satisfying, tangible result.
Getting youth and seniors together to learn to prepare nutritious meal can teach lessons that go beyond the mechanics of cooking.  There's potential for them to learn about where food comes from through local farms or community gardens.  Shopping for ingredients together is great way to learn how to budget and see how eating well can be affordable. 

There are additional opportunities to push this idea further by incorportating technology. Tech-savvy youth can teach elders to utilize the internet to research healthier recipes. They might also create a community blog based on the dishes that each youth/senior pair whip up. Food could be sold to generate a fund for future meals, donated to shelters/homeless, or brought around to feed other elderly who might live alone.  There could be monthly senior/youth dinner dates or meals for their families that bring people together and build community. Youth could encourage more of their peers to get involved this way, and seniors could do likewise. Ultimately, many of our modern health issues are rooted in a lack of understanding of good nutrition, so the potential benefits of encouraging the young and old to cook together go far beyond a single meal.

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