Today at alive we have another exciting story to share about people coming together to make a difference in their community.

We’ve all heard about the skyrocketing rates of obesity here in Canada, and the most troubling statistics of all may be the growing number of children who are obese. According to the Childhood Obesity Foundation, an estimated 26 percent of Canadian children ages two to 17 are either overweight or obese. The “Now You’re Cooking” program, developed by the YMCA of Kingston, Ontario, is tackling this problem head-on by equipping children with the knowledge and skills they need to prepare healthy meals.

In 2009, after learning about the statistics of overweight and obese children and noting that their local rates were even higher, the YMCA of Kingston began brainstorming ways to make a difference.

They further learned that lower income families are more likely to eat an unhealthy diet and be overweight or obese. This is due, in part, to less access to healthy foods in low-income areas, as well as the high price of healthy foods. Low-income families also may not have the time required to prepare a fully home-cooked meal.  

Keeping these statistics in mind, the Kingston YMCA developed a weekly, two-hour hands-on program for children aged six to 12 from financially challenged families. Operating out of the YMCA of Kingston site and the north-end Kingston neighbourhood; in partnership with student chefs at St. Lawrence College, the Salvation Army, and local grocers; and sponsored by the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign (so children can attend for free) the program is truly a collective effort.

The program teaches kids how to budget for meals, read food labels and make healthy decisions based on them, choose healthy foods, and of course, cook healthy meals with proper cooking techniques. In addition, the children also take part in physical activity as part of the program. This is all done in a fun, interactive way that kids love—so much so that after it began as a pilot project in 2010, it started up again in 2011.

Although the skills being taught may seem simple, the program is building healthy lifestyles from the ground up, and empowering future generations to take good care of their health. 

To learn more about the YMCA Strong Kids Campaign and other projects they are involved in, check out their website.