King County program serves up a feast of healthful eating

It sounds like a Food Network reality show: a dinner party where participants must devise their own recipes, winging it with whatever ingredients are on hand, without any idea how many guests will show up. Could be 20, could be 60.

Oh yeah, and the cooks are between the ages of 12 and 22 — and for many, their only cooking experience is zapping a frozen dinner.

Talk about a gamble.

And yet, every Wednesday, the youths at FEEST manage to pull it off.

“It’s always amazing how we always have enough food, and it comes out pretty good,” said Cristina Orbe, program manager at FEEST, which stands for Food Education Empowerment and Sustainability Team.

The free drop-in program — with a budget of about $50,000, courtesy of the King County Food and Fitness Initiative — teaches young people about cooking and healthful eating. All the meals are centered on vegetables, with a little bit of meat thrown in occasionally.

“A lot of youth eat a ton of starch and a ton of meat,” Orbe said. “We want to make vegetables delicious.”

Some of the vegetables come from the garden at the Youngstown Cultural Arts Center in Seattle’s Delridge area, which houses the program.

On a recent day, there were carrots and kale, chard and beets, potatoes and mushrooms and more, all laid out on the table when youths began arriving at 3:30 p.m. Newbies were warmly welcomed — and put right to work chopping. Creativity was encouraged.

“I’m just going to make it up,” said Fatuma Ali, a 15-year-old West Seattle High School student, as she sliced carrots for roasted potatoes. “Maybe some ginger, black pepper, olive oil … ”

A trained adult gently guides the youths with the wisdom gained from years of cooking — how to use a knife safely, what tastes good with what, how in the world to make your own salad dressing. Then he stands back. read more…