At Barack Obama Academy in East Liberty, the long-tarnished reputation of school lunches may be coming to an end. Thanks to the Food Revolution Cooking Club, students have the opportunity to learn how to prepare healthy meals.
The idea for the club came after world renowned chef Jaime Oliver visited Pittsburgh in 2012 and challenged the community to focus on healthy food choices. Since then, the Cooking Club has partnered with many local restaurants where students are exposed to the kitchen and learn the importance of quality foods.
Joel Macklin is the president of the Cooking Club and a junior at Obama Academy. He says before the formation of the club, he rarely prepared his own food.
“I was more of an anti-cook. I did no cooking whatsoever besides ‘Eggo Waffles.’ I knew my way around the microwave, but when it came to the kitchen, I didn’t know what to do with an egg--the most simple of lessons we learned at the club. After joining the club, I loved cooking. I do it every day now. I make my own food for lunch. I don’t rely on parents or school providing for me. I feel really independent and I can use these new skills to my advantage.”
One of the club’s partners is Bobby Fry, part-owner of Bar Marco in the Strip District. He says now that obesity has surpassed malnutrition as a leading cause of death, teaching kids to cook and make healthy choices is more important than ever. Fry wants to change the conversation with kids from diet and weight loss to prevention and food preparation.
“Let’s add something to the equation, not cut it out. Let’s replace high quantities of food with high quality of experience. Then all the sudden you don’t need to fill the caps with high quantity of food and bad foods.”
The Obama Academy Cooking Club has been raising money for a food truck to be situated outside the school’s campus. Macklin hopes the truck will show other students how easy it can be to make their own healthy food.