While 7-year-old Brooklyn is mature and shares her ideas with confidence, she’s still a kid. She likes to play with friends, watch cartoons, and ride her bike. She also likes to cook and is frequently in the kitchen with her grandma, who lives two blocks away.

So, when her mother, Marquisa, found out about the virtual Camp Dinner Table from a Girl Scout leader she signed up Brooklyn. “I could never find a cooking class that was within her age bracket or close to our house and things of that nature,” she says.

Camp Dinner Table fit the bill. Concerned about COVID-19, Marquisa wanted Brooklyn to have the opportunity to explore something different over the summer, but be safe. And because the program was grant funded, there was no out-of-pocket cost.

Camp Dinner Table is designed to bring families back to the table to build community and cook quality meals together, according to camp organizer and instructor Yolanda Scarborough. She delivers the ingredients and supplies for each week’s recipe to every camper’s door.

The five-week course meets one hour a week via Zoom. Campers build skills around the food they are preparing and learn about the cultural, regional and historical relevance. During camp sessions, they cook the food together as they talk and learn.

The students choose what they will cook the following week. The first week they tackled homemade pizza, stretching and kneading the dough, and then rolling it out with a rolling pin. They chose toppings to create a pizza to their liking. Other weeks they tried their hands at strawberry shortcake, avocado toast, and sunny-side-up eggs.

As a working mother, Marquisa really appreciated the skills and safety aspects of the class, like properly handling a knife. Brooklyn was also trained on how to use a stovetop safely, which was important for Marquisa.

“It helped me get over my fear of allowing her to cook on the stove to prepare a small meal,” she says.

The classes were family-oriented, so children needed to have an adult support person with them, be it a parent, aunt, or grandparent – someone needed to be involved. “Just to see the enthusiasm that the kids had with the class made whoever was their support person even happier to be involved in it,” says Marquisa.

“We all have complicated lifestyles, packed schedules even before COVID happened,” says Marquisa. “But now that we’re stuck in a house, we have no choice but to give the kids this basic knowledge.”


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