Frontline gets skeptics into the kitchen to make food and health palatable.
"So, who's eaten protein today?" asks Connal McCullough of a group of intent preteens gathered at the Jordan Boys and Girls Club in Chelsea, Massachusetts.
"I had chicken," says Juan Lopez, 12. "Kentucky Fried-but that's still chicken."
It was the perfect opening for the evening's subject: making a healthier alternative to Juan's deep-fried lunch. Instructors McCullough, a Culinary Institute of America graduate, and Tony Rosenfeld, chef and co-owner of b.good restaurant, are teaching hands-on cooking and health as part of a six-week course created by Operation Frontline, a program of Share Our Strength, the national antihunger and antipoverty organization.
"You hear about a nutrition class and you roll your eyes," says Erica Vogelei, former program manager for Operation Frontline in Massachusetts, "but a cooking class with a real chef-that's exciting."
Since 1993, Operation Frontline courses have reached more than 31,000 people in 15 states, including low-income adults, children and teens, and people living with HIV and AIDS. The in-kitchen classes are led by volunteer teaching teams-usually a professional chef paired with a nutrition educator. In most cases, students leave with a bag of groceries so they can recreate what they've just learned at home.
Tonight's project-low-fat baked chicken-emerged from the oven crisp and juicy. "Is it better than KFC?" asks Rosenfeld. "Sure. It's homemade," says Jerricka Rodas, 12. "We should have put some spice on it," volunteers a classmate. The final verdict comes when another voice asks, "Is there any more?"