Sprouts Cooking Club gets kids in the kitchen

Photos: Sprouts Cooking Club

A nonprofit based in West Oakland is teaching children the importance of healthy eating by offering training with professional chefs.

Sprouts Cooking Club offers three programs: after-school cooking classes at Bay Area public schools, in-restaurant cooking classes and camps for children age 7 to 12, and a 6-month vocational chef-in-training program for youth age 16 to 24.

"We strive to teach children hands-on that healthy, nutritional eating is fun by involving them in the entire process, from planting the seed, to harvesting, to cooking with real chefs, to cleaning, to eating a delicious meal," said founder Karen Rogers via email.


She said the nonprofit's educational programs are experiences "with real chefs in real restaurants using real ingredients."

Since its founding in 2012, nearly a thousand kids have come through its kitchens, including more than a hundred on scholarship. Via a partnership with Whole Foods, the grocery chain donates produce and space in its commercial kitchens, which reduces operating costs and tuition.

Sprouts also budgets ten percent of all revenue towards gifting free and reduced classes to those unable to pay.

Though the organization has its office and kitchen at 3206 Hannah St. in West Oakland, Sprouts formerly worked out of the same downtown space as Girls Inc. of Alameda.

The connections between the two organizations remain strong. "For every class or camp we run, we reserve a full ride scholarship for an Oakland-based girl coming from Girls Inc.," said Rogers.

Sponsorships from Oaklandish and Teecom gave boosts to the organization after its move to Hannah Street, enabling it to expand the number of kids served.

Sprouts actively recruits from reintegration program Beyond Emancipation and internship-focused schools like MetWest High for its chef-in-training program, which provides underserved youth with professional in-kitchen experience working alongside chefs at restaurants like Chop Bar, Burma Superstar, Bakesale Betty, and Forge.

An endorsement from Alice Waters, founder of Chez Panisse and the doyenne of the local food movement, helped Sprouts gain national attention. Sprouts has since expanded to offer programs in San Francisco, New York, and Paris.

"Every project and every program shares a common objective," wrote Rogers. "We are showing our youth, hands-on, what real food is about. We are empowering them to lead healthier lives."

Sprouts Cooking Club is located at 3206 Hannah Street, with school and restaurant partners throughout Oakland and the Bay Area. Registration is now open for spring and summer cooking camps, as well as for the chef-in-training program.
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