Children have had a lot of time on their hands in the past year during the pandemic that has closed schools, stopped sport practices and games and kept everyone at home. The Ecology Center based in San Juan Capistrano, an organic farm and culinary center, brought some cheer to kids this past Thursday, Jan. 28, with 100 free farm kits for kids.

The kits were followed by an online workshop with Chef Christina Ng from Berry Good Food Foundation that demonstrated and taught the children how to make soup for an interactive experience. The boxes were created with children in mind, especially those who are experiencing food insecurity.

SunCoast Market Co-Op also helped spread the word of the kits and the workshop. Parents signed up online to drive by and pick a box in the parking lot of the Imperial Beach Neighborhood Center.

Each box contained a booklet with the recipe for Butternut, Kale and Bean Soup and the necessary ingredients including onion, garlic, sage and bay leaves as well as crusty bread. In addition, colored pencils, an art journal and a $25 Amazon card were found in the box. The 100 farm kits were a joint effort between the Chuck and Ernestina Kreutzkamp Foundation, the Ecology Center, SunCoast Co-Op, Berry Good Food, San Diego County and SBCS for the interactive workshop. SunCoast Market offered the workshop and distributed the boxes through a Live Well San Diego grant.

Denise Orozco, a mother of four stopped by for a box and was excited about the activity. She heard about the event through social media and signed up for it. Orozco said one of her daughters is into baking right now and she’ll enjoy making soup. “It’a good way to do it when I’m not there. They can learn to do something on their own,” she said.

SunCoast held three zoom “Cook Along” events over the weekend and 60 kids were registered. Shannon Ratliff of SunCoast was excited about this new venture. “It was amazing to watch kids prepares vegetables grown at the Ecology Center farm. They had a lot of fun learning new cooking skills and trying new foods. They especially loved sharing the experience with other kids their age...this is so important right now when kids are more isolated than ever before. To bring this joy to so many families was incredibly special for all of us that were involved,” she said.

Ratliff was especially pleased when one of the participants was heard yelling, “Mom! This squash was grown on a real farm!”

“There is so much value in understanding where your food comes from. This is exactly the movement that SunCoast Market wants to see grow,” said Ratliff.

Ratliff said the co-op has received requests from residents to donate for future programs like this.

Anyone interested can contact www.suncoastmarket.coop

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