Chopped Junior: Youth cooking competition teaches healthy habits in Denver, Colorado

Chopped Junior: Youth cooking competition teaches healthy habits in Denver, Colorado

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When Kimberly Roberts came out of the hospital, she knew her health habits had to change. Her kids knew it, too. “I didn’t know how much it impacted them,” she says, after hearing her daughter tell her, “I don’t want other people to go through what you went through.” That’s when Brooklyn inspired Kimberly with an idea.

Watch kids compete in the final week of cooking lessons in Kimberly’s program hosted by The Salvation Army Denver Red Shield Center.

Below is a transcript of the video, edited for readability.

Messai: My name is Messai and I just completed Chopped Junior.

Janiah: Hi, my name is Janiah.

Mariah: My name is Mariah. My favorite food is probably spaghetti. Actually, no. Steak. Sorry.

Brooklyn: My name is Brooklyn. I’m in 8th grade, and I’m 13. Well, I bake. I like baking. Actually, no, I like cooking more than baking because, I don’t know, I just like chopping things.

Kimberly Roberts: So right now, when I come in, what I’ll do, I’ll get all the ingredients that’s on the recipe, and then I’ll just make sure – check the list and make sure we have everything that’s listed, and then I’ll get the equipment that they need in order to prepare the dish. So that’s what I’m doing now, setting up.

My name is Kimberly Roberts, co-founder of Parents and Youth Together, aka PYT. And we are with the Denver Red Shield Salvation Army. Our primary focus is to encourage kids and young teenagers to live a healthy lifestyle, which stems from staying active and eating healthy.

Chopped Junior, it basically consists of physical activity, lesson plans and cooking, learning measurements, kitchen equipment, learning how to read recipes, budgeting, cooking techniques. Competition is basically where the chefs take everything they’ve learned over the past weeks, incorporate that into the meal that they make for the judges.

Lt. Mandy Hall: Kimberly is amazing. Kimberly is – regularly, like, blows us away in her involvement in the community, her involvement in the program. She cares so much for these children. You can tell that she has invested in their lives and their family’s lives as well. She volunteers to do this.

A Red Shield center is a community center, so we have different classes for different programs. We have a licensed after school program, lots of different programs to impact the youth in our community and in our area. So we see a lot of kids that come in who come from broken homes or families that are struggling just to make ends meet. That’s really common in our neighborhood. This is a place for them to come and be safe and to be loved.

Lt. Grant Hall: If you’re one of the kids and part of these teams, to have her as a role model, it’s really good. So she’s a great asset to what we do at Denver Red Shield.

Kimberly Roberts: I just want them to really not only to learn how to live a healthy lifestyle, but just to encourage to get in the kitchen and just cook something. Just help mom and dad out in the kitchen whenever.

Messai: I actually haven’t done really much cooking before I entered this class. It was just something I really wanted to try out. Sometimes I just, like, bake, like, cupcakes.

Parent 1: It was amazing to see him cook for the first time in person. He showed so much confidence and so much independence, and I was really proud of him. I was surprised to see how much initiative he took to complete a meal from start to finish.

Parent 2: It’s comforting as a parent, especially for her being so young, I trust her more in the kitchen at home now. I could know that if she stirs something on the stove, she’ll be okay.

Mariah: What I like about cooking is that I learn how to do it step by step, and sometimes if I don’t get it, I ask for help, and it’s a lot easier. Ms. Kimberly is really nice, and she’ll walk us through step by step if we don’t know something.

Parent 3: Since this competition, she’s really been in the kitchen trying to learn things and get it together for this day. So it’s definitely helped her. I honestly wanted her to learn basic kitchen skills just for safety and possibly come out to be a chef when they’re older.

Kimberly Roberts: My sons played football, so I didn’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so we were constantly eating out. I think just eating unhealthy is kind of what led to my health not being the best. I struggled with diverticulitis. I don’t think any of my kids really knew the extent of it. I didn’t even really know the extent of it until they mentioned if I didn’t act right and change my eating habits, I could be on a colostomy bag.

It didn’t even really register until Brooklyn had mentioned to me that she didn’t want to see other people go through what I went through. So I didn’t really realize the impact that it had on her, and – give me just a minute. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.

It’s just so – It’s just heartbreaking because I didn’t know how she felt until she mentioned it because she was young and she was like, “Well, I want to teach kids how to eat healthy so they don’t have to go through what you went through.” And I was like, “Huh?” Gosh, she’s onto something.

Because I don’t want them to grow up with high blood pressure or have the issues that I have. But I also thought, if she’s thinking like that, other kids are thinking like that. And if it’s a conversation that starts with kids, then it would eventually lead up to the parents. That’s when I was inspired to do Parents and Youth Together.

I struggled with starting the program. I really didn’t have the money, and I knew it was going to take time away from my kids. But then something just kept calling, calling. I reached out to a ton of people. I got very little support, very little feedback. So I sent a proposal to the Denver Red Shield 2015 or so, and then they reached out to me and that’s how we got connected. It was kind of like heaven-sent. I was like, “Yes!” You guys just don’t know how happy I was because I grew up in this center. My dad would send me here in the summer, so it’s always been part of my life. And here I am. It’s been a blessing.

Brooklyn: It’s going good, and better. It’s been seven years since Chopped Junior started. I think it felt different because – I don’t know, it’s not like your ordinary kitchen you have in your house. It’s like an actual kitchen.

Kimberly Roberts: It’s a great fit because one, it’s inner city. Parents can afford it, and if not, then we’ll make a way. It just brings people together for the common good. It’s what The Salvation Army does. I think that’s why it’s a good fit for us.

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