We believe that our mission is fundamentally important to equity and development in our Dudley Square neighborhood and similar communities in the Boston area. It has been repeatedly emphasized throughout professional studies that low-income communities of color are particularly at risk for diet-related health problems such as obesity, Type II Diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. These health complications take a significant toll on our community, its vibrancy, and its life expectancy. Furthermore, poor nutrition and insufficient nutritional intake – usually associated with poverty, poor food access and poor education – have been shown by scientific studies to have significant effects on cognitive and behavioral development in youth. Between the declining health and diminished opportunity for educational achievement associated with poor diet, food education is vital for the development of these populations.
A 1994 study by Harvard Institute of Economic Research considered the potential causes for the striking rise in American obesity rates since the 1980s. They found that it is the decrease in time preparing food at home that has caused the rising trend in American obesity. Learning to cook, therefore, is the key to an individual’s ability to escape diet-related disease. It is also the best way to develop the open-mindedness and food literacy necessary for making healthful, sustainable food decisions. We believe that Take Back the Kitchen’s mission of empowerment through teaching accessible cooking skills is the best way to combat obesity and its associated health and social effects.
Beyond health disparities, our courses offer concrete skills to especially at-risk populations. Between our Professional Kitchen Series with BDEA, Healthy and Safe Cooking course with UCB, and opportunities for local youth to intern and volunteer with our organization, Take Back the Kitchen strives to provide tools for employment for our students. This kind of hands-on learning can be crucial for our students, who often struggle in traditional academic environments and derive real satisfaction from working with their hands and creating concrete products they can share and enjoy. Our lab-style approach is accessible and makes real learning exciting, and educators repeatedly tell us that their students grow more confident outside the kitchen, too, as a result of our classes. We nurture this growing self-confidence by creating opportunities for students to show off their accomplishments: by creating specials for the café, hosting dinners for friends and family, and participating in the life of a real working restaurant. This confidence and life-skill building is one of the most important aspects of self-empowerment that we provide.