Cooking for life is the focus of a new program for special needs youth offered by the Dragonfly Pond Family Respite Society.
“A lot of these kids are 15, 16, 17 and they’re going to be transitioning to adults pretty quick so they need to get these new skills,” said Traci Fladager, Dragonfly Pond co-ordinator. “We’re trying to teach healthy choices in cooking, to share a good meal that’s cost effective because they’re going to be moving out and living on a GAIN (guaranteed income) cheque which isn’t going to be much for groceries.
“A lot of the problems that we’re seeing is, as the kids get older they don’t have that many skills, they don’t have that much money and you don’t have a lot of social things to do so this kind of covers it all.
It teaches you budgeting, healthy choices. You’re cooking with your peers and you’re eating with your peers.”
The pilot project which is being operated through the assistance of grants from the United Way and Telus, will involve eight kids who will be working out of the Rotary Community Learning Kitchen at the Shatford Centre.
Instructing the course will be teaching assistant Brooks Sherry who instructs in the Princess Margaret Secondary School culinary program.
Also part of the program are the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club and the OSNS Child Development Centre.
Members of the program had the opportunity to harvest some of the bounty of the centre’s garden earlier this year to be used in the cooking.
“We wanted them to see this is where the food comes from and this is what you can do with it,” said Fladager.
The new program will also be combined with the society’s existing Family Get Together sessions which happen the first Tuesday of the month (from September to June) which brings families with young children together for a meal and to hear a guest speaker.
The purpose of the group is to help those parents with special needs children navigate their way through the various systems and making friends with people who are in a similar situation.
“We though it would be incredible to mesh these two together, to kind of bring the support group to the Shatford Centre and have the youth group cook for them,” said Fladager. “The cooking group can then either eat with them or eat with their peers, whichever they would like.
“They will be kind of acting as peer mentors and give the new families an idea of what their kids will be able to do and just kind of get that hope.”
As well, the third Tuesday of the month the cooking student members will cook a meal and enjoy it together.
Materials will be provided for the young people to create cookbooks of their own and reusable containers will be available for them to take portions home.
The first support group meal is scheduled for Oct. 4 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Room 108 of the Shatford Centre.
Dragonfly Pond works to support families with newborns to children up to 18 years old who have complex needs and/or disabilities living in the South Okanagan Similkameen.
Currently the society has nearly 80 families registered in its various year-round programs. There is no cost except a $10 annual membership fee.
“This is all the kids anywhere from autism, down syndrome even undiagnosed but just somewhere on the spectrum and we support not just the child but the entire family,” said Fladager.
A special launch party is planned for the program Sept. 6, at 3:30 p.m. at the Shatford Centre.
On Sept. 19 there will also be a tour of Safeway, followed by a short meeting at Wendy’s for a drink to discuss what recipes the group members would like to learn.