Crowded around the stove at the COA Goldin Center, 10 teenagers and four experienced women cooks take turns stirring a pot full of collard greens. As one of the women gives directions, the teens follow instructions, cutting up vegetables and measuring out spices into the pot. Most of the teens have never made collard greens before, especially without meat and fat.
The teenagers, 13 to 18 years old, are participating in Oldways’ African Heritage and Health program, a six-week pilot program that uses culture and cooking to connect teenagers with the elders in their community. The multi-generational African Heritage cooking class teaches teens healthier ways to make family favorites, and encourages them to bring the recipes home.
The Oldways program provides guidelines for the class, while the seniors bring the ingredients (some from their own gardens) and lead the group.
“We are always trying to connect our seniors with others in the community. Cooking bridges the gap between generations,” said Andre Goode, community-based programs director at the Goldin Center, 2320 W. Burleigh Ave.
Oldways, a national non-profit organization, works to provide families with the tools to live healthy lifestyles. Oldways is piloting the African Heritage cooking class in 14 other locations across the U.S. Emphasizing good nutrition, culture and heritage, and eating and cooking, Oldways promotes healthy eating through classes, culinary travel and nutrition information.
Goode and others at the Goldin Center hope additional funding will allow the center to offer the class year round. If the pilot is successful and the program receives additional funding, the class may be offered year-round, or expand to include other age groups.
The COA Goldin Center has also partnered with Milwaukee Children’s Hospital to provide more health services to the neighborhood. With the help of the hospital the center plans to open a clinic next spring in the building.