project leader
Alexandra N
5917 N. Broadway
(Chicago Edgewater)
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Graduation Day!

the project

The kids are back in school, and about to start up in the kitchen at the Peterson Garden Project Community Cooking School.

We're working with a community partner for Kids in the Kitchen, part of a nationwide program to encourage young people ages 8 to 14 to eat healthier meals and snacks through hands-on cooking experiences. Youth participants learn to prepare simple, healthy foods they can make themselves.

Classes are held at the Community Cooking School, a fully-equipped teaching kitchen with a mission of teaching everyone (Everyone. Seriously.) how to cook their own food.

Every lesson includes:
* An Easy to Prepare Recipe
* Kitchen and Food Safety Information
* A Healthy Eating Topic
* Physical Activity

With your help, by the end of each series, every kid in the class will be cooking up a storm!

(Don't forget to check the Updates tab to see how the project is going!

the steps

This September, Peterson Garden Project will start lessons for kids about basic cooking skills, good nutrition, healthy food choices, staying safe in the kitchen, and how cooking and gardening go hand in hand! You can help us get going by making a pledge for the first 3 sessions in fall and winter 2015-16.

We’re starting out in weeks one and two at our beautiful community table, getting to know each other, and preparing and eating some delicious meals that the kids can also prepare at home with parents, siblings and friends.

In the third week, kids will be at fully equipped learning stations, just like the grown-ups, because volunteers from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois are building us some awesome benches for the kids to stand on!

Get some kids in the kitchen today by making a pledge.

why we're doing it

Everybody loves Cheetos. And no harm to it. Sometimes it’s just what you need.

But kids need to know that apples are delicious too, and even that you can actually make things like Cheetos yourself. In fact, one of our most popular programs for kids shows them how to make their own soda and Doritos.

In the building that houses the Peterson Garden Project Community Cooking School, there are two vending machines. One of them is full of candy and Doritos; the other one has what the snack food industry likes to call "healthy snacks"-- things like granola bars, and sun chips, and those "reel froot jelly" things that kids insist isn't candy. We get stuff from there, too. But it isn’t what we’d call healthy—it’s "junk food" or "snack food."

A fine distinction.

In fact the distinction should not be "healthy" or "snack" or "junk" but simply there is food and then there is that edible stuff that they sell in all the pretty boxes. If you have to say "this is healthy food" chances are it isn't food at all because saying "healthy" food is like saying "cold" ice or "metal" steel-- it's simply redundant.

Kids in the Kitchen brings this back home to kids—they learn about real food–how it starts at delicious and how they can make it themselves. Healthy barely needs to be stated.

Food is healthy.

That is its purpose.

You should make a pledge:

• If you think kids should know their way around a kitchen

• If you learned to how to cook as a kid

• If you’re sorry that you didn’t learn to cook as a kid

Help us out. Get some kids in our kitchen this fall.


Disbursement budget:


RAISED = $2,657.00
 less ioby Platform Fee  $35.00
less ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $76.37

• Instructors and kitchen managers- $821.63

• Benches $60.00

• Disposables $1664.00

• IOBY fees $111.37

TOTAL $2657

original budget:

• Instructors and kitchen managers- $1,140 (4 hours each, 3 sessions of 5 classes, $19/hour)
• Benches so the kids can reach the counters just $60- most costs covered by Blue Cross Blue Shield employee volunteers!
• Food and nutritionist – covered by our community partner
• Disposables like table wear and cleaning supplies $1,664, based on 15 kids, 3 sessions of 5 classes, ~$7.40 per kid
• $500 for school presentations, fliers, phone calls, and other methods to reach the kids and get them involved!
• Cost of crowdsourced campaign $136
TOTAL $3,500


SUBTOTAL = $3,364
  ioby Platform Fee  $35
  ioby Donation Processing Fee (3%) $101
  TOTAL TO RAISE = $3,500



Graduation Day!

Here's the graduation from our first session of Kids in the Kitchen! The second session starts next week! If you'd still like to make a gift to the program, please visit and write "Kids in the Kitchen" in the notes.






The power of volunteers

Power tools that is.

Last Friday 10 volunteers from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinios donated their lunch hour by pulling out the power drills to help Peterson Garden Project Kids in the Kitchen. Four PGP staff members delivered a load of lumber right to BCBSIL headquarters on Randolph Street across from Maggie Daley Park and showed them how to build platforms for our kids to stand on, so they can reach the counters at the Community Cooking School!

Said program manager Lindsay Shepherd, “Kids in the Kitchen, like all PGP programs, is built with the power of volunteers. Blue Cross Blue Shield is a great partner with different youth programs at the gardens and the kitchen.”


Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinios volunteers have helped with numerous PGP programs, from garden building, to garden leadership, from the Plant Sale to making yummy baked goods. The spirit of volunteerism is embedded in the fabric of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinios. Every day, BCBSIL employees donate their time, talents and resources to causes that are important to them and the organization. BCBSIL employees volunteer over 19,000 hours annually, to support hundreds of community organizations like Peterson Garden Project.

On Thursday, another group of BCBS volunteers will finish the building project, painting and varnishing the benches. If you'd like to volunteer for Kids in the Kitchen check out our IOBY home page. Other PGP volunteer opportunities are at

Volunteers are the heart of Kids in the Kitchen


At Peterson Garden Project we like to say that volunteers are our heart, and donors make the heart beat.


Every PGP project from garden building and management, to classes at the Community Cooking School like Kids in the Kitchen rely on volunteers.


Kids in the Kitchen volunteers will help our instructor and kitchen manager, and will be trained in setting up the space, assisting the kids in the lesson, and cleaning up. Each class will have 20 kids, so we need volunteers to make sure everything stays under control! 


Volunteers include some of our gardeners, our regular kitchen volunteers, students from nearby Loyola University, and maybe you!


Each volunteer goes through a background check (a Chicago Park District requirement for working with kids), so we’re trying to recruit regular volunteers who can commit to volunteering regularly.  Having familiar faces each week will also help our kids, aged 7-12yrs old, feel comfortable over the course of each 5 week session.


If you’re in Chicago and are interested in learning more about volunteering, send a message to our Volunteer Coordinator Lindsay at

Who are the kids in the kitchen?

Interest in this progam is huge.

For one thing, rather than a hot plate at the front of the classroom, we've got an honest to goodness fully equipped, certified teaching kitchen right in the middle of the city, Kids will get to actually make lots of delicious things, rather than just watching the teacher.

Our location is the Broadway Armory Park in Edgewater, an ethnically and economically mixed neighborhood on the northside.

Located along Broadway and Thorndale Avenues in the Edgewater community, Broadway Armory Park is the Chicago Park District's largest indoor recreational facility. Officially purchased in 1998 after being no longer needed by the National Guard for military purposes, the massive, 87-year-old park facility today houses five gymnasia and 13 rooms. Broadway Armory's open space makes it ideal for Chicago Park District special sporting events such as citywide 3 on 3 soccer and volleyball. Outside organizations and families use the park regularly for their own permitted events and parties.

The newly remodeled energy efficient facility offers community array of amenities. The park boasts an active after-school program for children ages 6-12, who create their own afternoons by choosing from a list of available activities-such as dance, fitness, floor hockey, arts & crafts, and homework time.

And of course, the Community Cooking School, new home for Kids in the Kitchen!

The Armory boasts Park Kids, a large after-school program serving several local public schools. Our first three sessions will draw kids from this group. While we're not enrolling kids from other programs at this time, if you'd like to learn more about how to get involved as a participant or volunteer, send an email to


Announcing our fall 2015 Kids in the Kitchen schedule!

Last week Kitchen Manager Lindsay Shepherd met with our partners from the Broadway Armory to work out the schedule and curriculum for our first session.

Which you've already raised the funds for as of today!

We know the kids are excited, and we're pretty excited as well.

Classes start Sept 14th, and will be held every Monday from 3:30-4:30pm. For the first couple of sessions, we're drawing kids from the Park Kids program at the Armory. The Broadway Armory is one of the busiest “parks” in the Chicago Park District, with year-round classes in everything from gymnastics to, well, cooking .If you haven’t been to the kitchen, or to the Armory for that matter, we urge you to stop by. 

To see the kitchen, take a class!

To help keep kids in the kitchen through all three 2015-2016 sessions, please make or increase your pledge today.

What is the Community Cooking School?

How do you teach an entire city how to grow their own food? That was the question LaManda Joy asked when she founded Peterson Garden Project in 2010, inspired by nothing more, or less, than a photo on a butcher shop wall.

By June of that year LaManda had created what was, at the time, the largest edible, organic garden in Chicago. Six years later PGP had grown to 6 large community gardens, an employee garden at the Field Museum, a school garden at Mather High School,

and the Community Cooking School.

Closing the loop "from plot to plate" the Community Cooking School opened in winter 2013. It's a marvelous fully-equipped teaching kitchen in Chicago’s Broadway Armory right near the Thorndale L stop.

Our Community Cooking School engages neighbors, family members, elders, youth, chefs, farmers, entrepreneurs and others dedicated to sharing the valuable skill of home cooking. Much more than nutrition, home cooking celebrates culture, history, family and community. A variety of programs for alls level of experience and income and all types of cuisines are available year-round. Can’t afford to take a class? You can volunteer and be part of the learning experience.

In 2014, our first full year of operations, we started offering up to 4 fee-based classes per week /as well as free classes in nutrition called Fresh Fridays, and free classes for local low-income seniors. We do volunteer and team building events too, where volunteers prepare food for our pantry partners, or learn how cooking skills can improve their businesses!

Also in 2014, we started working with local youth, offering programs for Girls in the Game, YWCA Tech Gyrls, and Greencorps. As you know if you’ve gotten this far, we’re starting regular classes for local public school kids this fall.

Won’t you help by making or increasing your gift?

Thanks for the soft launch!

We’ve been sneaking around since August 5 setting up this site—and look what happened. We leaked it to just a few people and raised $830!
Let’s ramp that up and get kids cooking at the Community Cooking School starting in September. We’ll be back here often to post pictures, tell you about some of our partners, and to mobilize our networks (and yours) to teach everyone (seriously, even the kids) how to cook.

So share, comment, give and help us get these kids in the kitchen!


This is where photos will go once we build flickr integration


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