This past October, the First Youth Program at First Moravian Church in Easton, PA was host to their inaugural class for the Make It, Take It Kitchen program for kids. The six week course aims to teach kids about cooking, nutrition, and food safety. For most of the children in attendance, it was their first time in a professional kitchen, and their first time trying to cook.

Nancy Walters, founder of Make It, Take It Kitchen, was inspired to create the program when she learned that Easton’s West Ward was designated as a USDA food desert and low-income area. According to the American Nutrition Association, a food desert is defined as a part of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers in the region. With this in mind, Nancy saw a need for a resource that could teach residents about nutrition.

“Food insecurity can lead to poor nutritional habits, which can lead to health problems as well as obesity, from relying upon too easily available processed or fast foods,” said Nancy. “I believe that if we support individuals and families in practicing cooking healthy, nutritious meals at home, we can impact the overall health in our community.”

Liberty’s Lutheran Congregational Services (LCS) was instrumental in securing key grants to make the Make It, Take It Kitchen program possible. “Building the initial connection between Make It, Take It Kitchen and the funders was a role LCS gladly accepted,” said Julia Menzo, Liberty’s director of community outreach. “Many organizations don’t realize what grants and funding are out there to help programs start and thrive. LCS connects the dots between like-minded organizations to make successful connections and spur growth.”

LCS staff and Nancy worked together to secure grants from First Presbyterian Church of Easton, Arndt’s Lutheran Church of Easton, and Cooking Matters, a national program that provides nutrition info and cooking classes for low income children teens and families helped the Make It, Take It Kitchen start off strong. “The grants are the route to our success because this was designed to be volunteer driven, with no paid staff,” said Nancy.

At graduation in November, the once kitchen-naive chefs showed off their new found skills by cooking for their families at a special ceremony. They also received a backpack with a booklet of all the recipes they made, plus the kitchen tools they used each week so they can keep cooking at home. “If you want to make a nutritious soup for your family but you don’t have a cutting board, a knife and a soup pot, then how do you continue to make that nutritious meal?” said Nancy.

“The program was designed to be replicated by other faith-based or service groups,” said Nancy. Make It, Take It Kitchen classes are not just for kids; three classes for adults were held in the past year at various locations in Easton. As the program builds, Nancy would like to expand the number of classes taught, and translate all materials to Spanish to reach a wider audience.