Teach children to cook and they’ll learn the value of nutrition

In 2012, a girl from Bristol moved to the capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, with no plan and little idea of what lay ahead. Alicia Amende, a business and marketing graduate from Oxford Brookes, initially filled her time volunteering at various charities. Whilst working at a children’s event for the Education, Technology and Food charity (ETF), she had a ‘eureka’ moment.  

A little girl kindly requested that she played the ‘conversation game’ with her; a game where Alicia would ask her questions and she would respond. Starting off with what Alicia thought to be a generic question, she asked, “what’s your favourite vegetable?” To her surprise, the girl responded with, “wait, what’s a vegetable again?” Was it really the case that these children were not aware of the simple, straight-forward food groups? 

Deciding to do something about this, Alicia began taking ingredients to these communities to cook with the children every Sunday. Realising that they all quite enjoyed the activity, she created Delicias de Alicia in 2015. This is a social enterprise that runs cooking workshops for children, all financed through a vegetarian pop-up restaurant and catering service.

Three years on, the organisation is growing faster than ever. On a Friday evening, in a beautiful house located in San Telmo, a group of people sit around a large shared table, indulging in a tasty, three-course meal cooked by Alicia herself. Meals range from fresh beetroot gazpacho to flavourful Moroccan tagines, all accompanied by local Argentinian wines. These events do not just provide great healthy food and lively interesting people, but they also provide a chance to engage with the values of the organisation. All this being made all the better in the knowledge of where the money goes. 

Yet it is on a Saturday morning where the real magic happens. In an under-developed area of the city (commonly referred to as a ‘villa’), Alicia and her volunteers run a six-week cooking workshop course for approximately thirty children. There is a different focus every week: including with fruit, vegetables, flours, and protein. What is more, all the ingredients are bought affordably from within the community. 

In a country like Argentina, an abundant consumption of red meat and deep-fried bread form a big part of an average person’s lifestyle. There is a real need to embed the importance of a varied diet into young minds and more importantly, demonstrate that it is not difficult to sustain.

Due to the poor living conditions of the ‘villas’  where they live, it is essential that the children have a balanced diet to aid the building of their immune systems. Indeed, these areas often do not have suitable sanitation systems or even sufficiently insulated houses. Therefore by focusing their work here, Delicias de Alicia is able to reach and then help the most vulnerable children in the city. Not only do these children learn to cook in a fun and organised manner, but they are also educated on nutrition and its importance. Furthermore, with the provision of simple and affordable recipes, this encourages them to incorporate a variety of food into their everyday lives. In doing so Delicias de Alicia disputes the notion that healthy food is a luxury, arguing that it can be for all. 

 

Image: Lucas Ullua

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