At Clark Park on the morning of Saturday, April 21st, a small crowd gathered around the Vetri Mobile Teaching Kitchen truck as instructor Julia Harris introduced the recipe she would be presenting that day: Chili Lime Roasted Veggies, based on the chili-lime flavored Takis that kids love to eat.
Vetri Mobile Teaching Kitchen, a program by Vetri Community Partnership, is a Philadelphia-based cooking course on wheels with a main goal of getting Philadelphians to eat healthier by teaching quick, easy, all-veggie recipes that anyone can make at home at various locations such as schools, farmers markets, and community centers.
Most vegetables used during Mobile Teaching Kitchen presentations are sourced locally in order for those who see the demonstration to find the veggies they liked easily, said Vetri Mobile Teaching Kitchen Instructor Liz Sempervive.
At certain locations, the Mobile Teaching Kitchen partners with the Share Food Stand, an organization that helps those who don’t qualify for government-funded dietary support by providing emergency food relief, distribution to food pantries, share packages which sell grocery packages for twenty dollars, and senior boxes which provide free 30-pound boxes of shelf stable groceries, according to Share Food Stand volunteer Sam Mogil. The organization sets up a farm stand next to the Mobile Teaching Kitchen truck and often supplies the produce used in affiliated demonstrations.
At schools, the instructors teach several groups of students after school in a hands-on class in which children help prepare the food with kitchen scissors and learn about the foods in the recipes and the cooking techniques used in the recipe, while environments with more adults are treated with a simple presentation and with recipe cards handed out at the end. However, all recipes are designed to satisfy both adults’ and children’s’ tastes, require little to no effort, and help Philadelphians make healthy yet tasty meals.
“With kids, what I’m really focused on is just giving them the opportunity to put their hands on an ingredient and feel empowered that they can learn how to cook,” said Harris. According to Harris, kids are more likely to try a new food that kids stereotypically would not eat if they have helped make it.
“[It’s great] having kids saying they don’t like cabbage, and then going ahead and eating the cabbage and saying they really enjoyed it,” said MobileTeaching Kitchen Coordinator Emily Fisher. “It’s really nice that we can touch the community and really see it face-to-face.”
According to Fisher, the program partners with farm stands at some farmers markets where they hold demonstrations by including less popular ingredients in their recipes, thus increasing sustainability by reducing food waste created by lack of purchases of a certain ‘unpopular’ veggie. The program asks farms that will be present at upcoming farmer’s markets about their surplus veggies and then incorporates said surplus into their planned recipe for the upcoming presentation. People who watch the presentation receive a copy of the recipe and often a coupon which can be used at any of the stands at the farmer’s market, so they are more inclined to purchase a new or surplus vegetable in attempt to recreate the recipe.
Vetri Mobile Teaching Kitchen’s three or four ingredient recipes require very little spices and take less than 15 to 20 minutes to make, and also allow community members to discover and acquire a taste for new foods, according to Instructor Liz Sempervive.
“[A] lady was like, ‘I’ve been using parsnips ever since I saw your presentation last time,” said Sempervive of a woman who had attended a previous Mobile Teaching Kitchen. “We’re bringing awareness and education of how to cook vegetables to people who are not cooking vegetables.”