Monday, February 1, 2010

Bristol Kids are Eating the Stimulus Package!

Ever wonder what happens in BCO's Community Kitchen? Here's a story I wrote for The Bristol Press ( about one program there:

BRISTOL – Instead of just hanging out after school, 15 Bristol middle school students are spending time doing homework, exercising and learning to cook meals for their families.
The after school program, run by the Bristol Community Organization in its community kitchen, started in early January, said Thomas Morrow, executive director of BCO.
Funded by federal stimulus money, the program, which serves seventh grade students from Memorial Boulevard Middle School, employs three adults in part-time positions.
The 15 youth meet every day after school and walk, escorted by program coordinator Christina Welch, the short distance to BCO at 55 South St.
Welch said the walking is part of the exercise component of the program. She said kids use pedometers to measure how fast they’re going and how far.
They’ll do some martial arts as part of the program, too, said Welch, and kids are excited about plans to purchase a Wii for the group, “to make exercise more fun, less painful.”
“I decided to do it because I love cooking a lot,” said Christopher Remillard Jr., who is 12. He said he wanted to take cooking classes in school, but found out there aren’t any in the middle school.
Kyla “Moon” Bruno, 12, said she loves cooking, which she does at home with her mom. Once, she got burned on the stove, she said, and for awhile, she was afraid of it. But now, she enjoys it again, especially in a group of friends.
“When I grow up, I’m going to have to cook on my own,” said Bruno.
Amber “Hoshi” Boyne, also 12, said her sister encouraged her to get into the program.
“I like that you actually get to use real kitchen supplies,” said Boyne. “You actually get to do the stuff yourself and taste it. It’s pretty cool.”
The kids stay at BCO from 2:30 to 5:30 p.m., and each night three of them spend time cooking in the kitchen, preparing a meal for their families, who join them that evening to eat. That way, every family comes once a week for their evening meal at the community kitchen.
In the program, students learn about nutrition and good food handling techniques, have a snack and have the use of computers to do homework when they’re not in the kitchen.
“I learned how to make a banana strawberry smoothie,” said Remillard, “and I learned how to make banana bread.”
Remillard said he’s also perfected ramen noodle soup by adding his own special spices to it.
“It’s kind of fun,” said Gary Belanger, 12. He said he likes to experiment in the kitchen and has learned to improvise, like when they used English muffins for pizza crust.
“So far, my favorite thing that we made was nachos,” Belanger said.
The program also teaches discipline, said Boyne, and gives kids a place to go after school.
“The time seems to melt away whenever I’m here,” Boyne said.
The $57,500 program budget covers the school year, said Morrow, and is federal stimulus money.
“We’re hoping that it can be continued with some other funding,” Morrow said.
An additional $1,500 grant from Bristol Youth Services paid for bus transportation home after the program, said Morrow, and for an occasional field trip.

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