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Teaching Kids the Art of Cooking


It’s like Avon or Mary Kay, only for the childhood obesity epidemic.

Healthy Hands Cooking is a South Carolina-based company that seeks to recruit adults nationwide to teach interactive cooking classes to young people. The company offers basic training to nutritionists, parents, community volunteers or anybody else interested in helping kids learn to prepare healthy meals, and provides them with the tools to offer classes in their communities.
It’s the brainchild of Leader Janice Walker Pinnington, who was inspired to launch the company after conducting a few cooking classes for her daughter and a handful of her daughter’s friends in her own home kitchen.
“I wasn’t really planning on a business. I really was just trying to get her interested in cooking and give her some skills,” Pinnington says, adding that doing so opened her eyes to a wider need.
“Kids are open to learning. They’re really anxious about trying new things,” Pinnington says. “But they need to have a basic level of kitchen safety and [learning about] cross contamination… before they even get to the cooking stage.”
At the heart of Healthy Hands Cooking is a four-week, eight-hour interactive course designed as an after-school program to offer kids a solid foundation of healthy cooking and nutritional education. Classes are held in school cafeterias, church kitchens, fitness centers and private homes and taught by the company’s trained instructors. Most courses cost $120, although the company does provide free classes to schools through the “Chefs Move to Schools” program.
The company is based in South Carolina, but provides training courses for potential instructors nationwide via webinars and other digital means. Instructors then teach classes in their own neighborhoods, earning an income for teaching the classes.
The entire Healthy Hands Cooking team can interact on the company’s website, finding business opportunities and sharing teaching tips via a password-protected forum. “I want to be able to connect my instructors with students so I’m literally giving them the business,” Pinnington adds.
Healthy Hands Cooking fills a unique void when it comes to nutrition education, Pinnington says. Many schools no longer offer home economics, so students don’t pick up kitchen basics in the classroom. A lot of parents are too busy working to teach their kids how to cook each night.
Meanwhile, the after school cooking programs that do exist can’t find trained people to teach the classes, Pinnington adds.
“I’ve got classes that I can teach regularly, that’s not a problem. I need to find instructors,” Pinnington says.
But offering the classes is vital to reversing childhood obesity, Pinnington says. She recalls that when she was young, her family dined out just once a year, on her parents’ anniversary.
Pinnington looks back fondly on her youth, knowing that rarely eating out meant that she spent much of her childhood learning how to prepare and cook fresh and healthy meals in her family’s kitchen. Kids today want to learn these skills, Pinnington says, recalling the joy that one of her students had by merely cracking open an egg.
“One mom called me and said, ‘There was no way I could get spinach in my daughter’s mouth before,’” Pinnington says. “Now she’s making smoothies with spinach.”