BrainFood is a non-profit organization that brings in kids from all over D.C., boys and girls (the vast majority without cooking experience), and makes them cook together twice a week for a total of four hours. You might think that the most rewarding aspects of this afterschool program would be learning how to cook and EATING the food. While it is rewarding to be able to say confidently, “I can cook!” There’s much more to it than that.
At BrainFood, students learn how to work efficiently under time constraints with people of different backgrounds, which is a skill that people need to work at large corporations and to get along in the real world. Most people don’t get that type of real-world experience at school.
BrainFood equips students with qualities that everyone should have: patience; a willingness to work with others and cooperate; a work ethic; and an open mind. We learn patience when dishes don’t taste as great as we thought they would, but we add or subtract ingredients to improve them, instead of just giving up. And just waiting for a dish to come out of the oven requires patience!
We learn that some recipes take longer than others and that we will have to work together to complete them. That teaches us the importance of working with others and cooperation. When you cook, some steps have to come first and some will take longer. Taking all these things into account teaches coordination.
Brainfood also helps students develop a good work ethic. Cooking isn’t all fun and games. Once the meal is prepared, pots, pans and dishes all need to be washed, dried and put away. No matter how tired you are, it has to be done.
Finally, BrainFood helps students develop an open mind. At BrainFood, the goal is to expose young adults to a healthier lifestyle through food, and to expose them to new foods. I remember I used to tremble at the sight of whole grains and strange foods. Now, I want to try everything!
BrainFood instilled in me all the qualities I have described. And then the staff nominated me for the POSSE Foundation Scholarship, which identifies and recruits 40 young leaders in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia to attend four of the most prestigious colleges in the nation. Had it not been for the lessons I learned through BrainFood, I wouldn’t have been able to show the POSSE Foundation that I was dynamic, a team player, and a leader in the community.
I now have a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Bucknell University. Even better than that, I know I won’t get homesick missing homemade meals! In a nutshell, the most rewarding part about BrainFood has been watching my own transformation. You have to live it to really understand.