University of Arizona Cooperative Extension seed-to-table program, ‘The Garden Kitchen’ is seasoned with new improvements in time for a grand re-opening in just a couple of weeks.
In addition to the full-size commercial kitchen, there's now a cooking demonstration island, as well as 5 new kitchenettes and 4 other cooking stations, where class participants can practice what they’re learning.
“We wanted to create a space so participants could watch a cooking demonstration, and then have them turn around and cook. They can ask questions of the teachers so they feel more confident and feel more self-efficacy when they return to their own homes,” says Jennifer Parlin, MPH, Assistant in Extension, at the Garden Kitchen.
“We’ve always done hands-on education, in that we did demonstrations on a pop-up table, but that’s very different than being in a home style kitchen,” Parlin says.
“We wanted to break down barriers to healthy cooking. We hear ‘I don’t know what to do with my 4 year old, while cooking’… ‘I dirty every dish in the house’… I don’t know how to make a meal that only takes 30 minutes’.” Parlin says they wanted to provide a space where class-takers could make those comments, ask questions, and then practice working around challenges with an instructor’s support.
The Garden Kitchen – which has been around since 2012 - is a seed-to-table nutrition education program, meaning families learn about every step of bringing a healthy meal to the kitchen table — from growing and purchasing to preparing and storing.
The Garden Kitchen, located in South Tucson, is on property Pima County purchased, in part to keep it out of the hands of a motorcycle group which wanted to buy it. It was also in an effort to establish a place for families to learn healthy habits. The staff at the Garden Kitchen promote healthy eating, inexpensive recipes, and ideas on how to grow your own food while keeping in a budget, or limited income, through on-site classes, and demonstrations out in the community.
And with the newest, recent improvements, Parlin says they hope to bring even more to the community.
“With the addition of these new kitchenettes, I feel like we can more fully service our participants. It’s wonderful to go out and do a food demonstration, for people and have them learn more about healthy cooking and eating, but I feel like it’s more effective to have hands-on education.”
Reaching more people was another goal of another piece of the remodel: a cooking demonstration island, soon to be equipped with audio visual equipment in order for staff to video demonstrations, and share with people in rural areas, or people who can’t make it to classes.
Parlin says she hopes to reach more young people, as well.
“We’d also like to cater hopefully to our college student population. We have interns from the University that come through our kitchens every semester, some of them are a little bit lost in the kitchen, they haven’t done it a lot.. they’ve been concentrating on other extracurriculars to get into college… but it’s a life skill. So I’d like to cater to that population as well. I’d love to see more programs for college students – we’re working toward the University’s goal of 100% engagement with our students,” Parlin says.
And all of the work done illustrates Cooperative Extension’s mission, too, Parlin says.
There are quite a few ways where we can deliver on the mission of Cooperative Extension. We’ll really bring all the research and the skills from our team to our participants, and hopefully having them share those skills with their families and friends, and hopefully being able to reach more people in that way.”
The Garden Kitchen offers free classes on the first Saturday of every month. The classes include a physical activity portion, a cooking demonstration, and a gardening lesson.
To learn more about classes, or the grand re-opening event….Click here to check out the Garden Kitchen’s website for more information… or reach out to Jennifer Parlin.