by Kenya Heard, MSM
Program & Development Director, CHOICES
The Center for Helping Obesity in Children End Successfully (CHOICES) is a nonprofit based in Kennesaw, Georgia. Since the year 2002, CHOICES has worked with more than 125,000 children and adults. Its mission is to be a resource center for at-risk and clinically diagnosed overweight children. The 2019 Barclay-Giel Seed Grant for $7,500 supported the Cooking with CHOICES Program, designed to provide innovative cooking classes for children and much needed food to families in Metropolitan Atlanta.
The CHOICES Community Teaching Kitchen serves as the headquarters for the Cooking with CHOICES program. This three-week workshop-based program teaches children and parents five basic nutrition education concepts using nutrition tips and grocery lists for food shopping. The program participants learn the culinary skills needed to prepare nutrient-dense meals, which they can then repeat at home in their kitchens. This free program places a preference upon children at risk of obesity and families enrolled in WIC or SNAP food programs. According to Ashley Keyes, the Executive Chef with CHOICES, “We teach families how to stretch their limited food budgets by planning meals in advance and showing them how to use the food they have in new ways.”
CHOICES helps to address the challenges families face when trying to access affordable foods and figuring out how to make seasonal foods into tasty meals. The CHOICES Mobile Pantry brings fresh fruits, vegetables, and pantry stocking foods directly to communities where families are most in need. The annual Thanksgiving Turkey event that started in 2017 at an elementary school has become a year-round program. Over the past year, CHOICES has distributed 175,000 pounds of food which helped 16,000 people. The partners that assist in securing food and recruiting volunteers for this program include the Atlanta Community Food Bank, The Atlanta Culinary Federation, First Congregational Church of Atlanta, GoodR, Royal Foods, and WellStar Health System.
Currently, CHOICES provides virtual programming via Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, and YouTube, which has reached over 10,000 viewers. This summer, they hope to reopen their Community Teaching Kitchen for onsite children’s cooking classes, summer camps, and family health workshops. To learn more about CHOICES, visit www.Choicesforkids.org
A father and daughter participate in the cooking workshop.