Newcastle Public Library
The chefs from Food for Thought Learning Institute are trying to get people to do what their name says – think about the food they’re eating.
“Our goal is to reintroduce the lost art of family cooking,” said Chef Matthew Joplin, Director and co-Founder of Food for Thought. “A lot of children are growing up in households where nobody cooks at all. Hopefully we are exciting kids to get them to want to cook themselves.”
Families are encouraged to “Dig in to Dinner” when they check out the group’s appearance at the Newcastle Public Library at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, July 20, together, as it will feature something for all ages. The chefs will give children an easy snack they can put together, something like combining a few easy ingredients to make a tasty quesadilla.
Meanwhile for their parents, the discussion and demonstration center more on taking items already in their pantry and turning them into dishes the parents probably wouldn’t have thought about.
“We usually already have the food laid out, so kids come in and see all that pretty food, and their eyes get pretty wide,” Joplin said. “They get excited about what we are doing.”
Food for Thought started in 2010 after a conversation between Joplin and Karen Sonntag, a pair of skilled and trained local chefs hoping to respond to a need not being met in the Norman area. Their mission is to help people in need who receive donations from local food pantries of items but then have no idea how to prepare meals with them.
“It’s not the fault of the pantries, because it’s their job to hand food out, not to teach people how to use it,” Joplin said. “I thought that was a real shame, because people would get something and sometimes it even winds up getting re-donated.”
Joplin, Sonntag and local chef Amy Radford have moved forward since the nonprofit group’s inception locally. Now Food for Thought’s reach has gone beyond Norman, as the group has given demonstrations in many different parts of the state. They’ve worked with organizations like the Bridges nonprofit and Food and Shelter for Friends, working with older teens and many adults in showing them some basic skills to use items they already have to prepare meals.
“One of the messages we like to get across to adults is no one’s born knowing how to do anything,” Joplin said. “So if you never had reason to learn how to cook, it’s alright.”
And their range of teaching goes a lot younger, too, as they have been part of Planet Reaves, a summer program offered for children by the City of Norman. There they have taught basic nutrition skills to campers between ages 5 and 11.
Some grocery shoppers and would-be chefs lament that the financial cost of eating healthy is greater. But another big part of what the Food for Thought chefs do is show how to prepare not healthy meals that don’t break the bank.
“We will talk about the economics of family meals, and using ingredients that you already have to combine things to be healthy and save money too,” Sonntag said.
This year’s Summer Reading Program is presented with the support of the Oklahoma Department of Libraries, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Oklahoma Arts Council, Hitachi Computer Products of America, The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, Sonic, Kirkpatrick Family Fund, the Pioneer Library System Foundation and Friends of the Library groups throughout the Pioneer Library System.