Happy Kids in the Kitchen: crEATe Pilot is an A+

“Such an enjoyable activity tonight with my 5th grader and 8th grader (shh, don’t tell…). I even heard, ‘we should do this once a week!’ Thank you!” –Parent of students in the crEATe Program

What do you get when you teach elementary school kids to cook? 

Answer: happy kids, families cooking and eating together, and student engagement that school leaders report they haven’t seen since before the pandemic. 


What is the crEATe program?

Launched as a pilot in January 2022, the crEATe program is a partnership between Seacoast Eat Local (SEL), Red’s Good Vibes, and the Mary C. Dondero Elementary School in Portsmouth, NH. The goal is simple: support families to crEATe nutritious meals together, and give them the resources to do so.

The first session is underway and will run for 12-weeks with distribution days occurring every other week. At each distribution, students receive a tote bag that includes two recipes and corresponding ingredients for a family of four––eight meals in total––plus an additional snack recipe.

The first week, participants in the program also received a staple bag. Donated from Whole Foods Market, this bag included pantry staples: cooking oil, veggie broth, oats, canned tuna, canned beans, rice, pasta, honey, sugar, tahini, and soy sauce.

The Dondero school is Grades K-5, and all students are invited to participate in crEATe. The programs goals are to:

    • Inspire families to cook together;
    • Increase awareness of healthy local food options;
    • Build a sense of community and togetherness among children; and
    • Attract a wider and more consistent customer base for local farms. 

There are nearly 100 families signed up. As a result, after six drop-offs, that will mean 1200 meals will be delivered, cooked, and enjoyed. The idea is to pilot this program at Dondero. Then, the hope is that other schools will be interested and pick-up the model.

Funding for the program comes from in-kind donations from Whole Foods Market, Trader Joe’s, and Market Basket. Local ingredients make their way into the recipes as they are available. As we move into the spring season, more will be included. The local food is purchased by Seacoast Eat Local using funds from our generous donors

What are the kids cooking?

So far, recipes have included the following:

  • Banana pancakes (recipe below)
  • Pasta with eggplant and tomato
  • Orange chicken
  • Vegetable fritters
  • Apple coleslaw
  • Fried rice
  • Vegetable bean soup
  • Cheesy potato stacks
  • Easy graham cracker toffee
  • Chocolate zucchini muffins  
  • Choose-your-own ending muffins (with dried fruit and chocolate chips)

In addition to the take-home bags, extra bags are also provided for the teachers to make recipes with their classes. These provide classes the opportunity to continue the conversation about food, nutrition, hunger, farms, and agriculture. The in-school recipes have included apple cinnamon protein bites and no-bake ”apple nachos.” (Imagine sliced apples topped with granola, yogurt, berries, raisins, nuts, and other yummy goodies.) 

Recipes also come with variations and ideas of things to add. Alternate proteins or flavor combinations, for instance. Based on the photographs families are posting online, and the direct feedback we’ve received, the program is off to a great start. We are thankful to the teachers, students, families, and PTA of Dondero. It’s been an amazing group of kids to start this program with.

More than cooking…

Learning to cook is a life skill, and, like most things, it begins with the basics: learning to identify ingredients; chopping, mixing, and sautéing; setting the oven temperature and handling hot food safely.

Every recipe distributed in the program ends with the encouragement that families should experiment. For example: take something out, put something in, see how it goes. It is a reminder that the real success of this program is more than the making of delicious food. It’s the empowerment to know you can.  

To support this program, please donate to Red’s Good Vibes, Seacoast Eat Local, or email [email protected] with any questions. 

“Thank you very much for encouraging kids to enjoy the food magic… we enjoyed the whole process of cooking… from scratch to the delicious pancake! Our weekend morning started with a delicious breakfast!! Thank you!” –Parent of students in the crEATe Program


PS… enjoy this delicious Banana Pancakes recipe that the kids made!