Blue & You Foundation for a Healthier Arkansas has awarded the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas (ASC) a $16,178 grant to implement a healthy cooking program.


The CrEATe Lab Program will help families in Jefferson County to turn knowledge of dietary choices into meals that they will enjoy and can afford, by offering a nutrition-based, hands-on cooking series. The three components — cooking, gardening and shopping — will provide families with the capability to turn knowledge and understanding of dietary choices into a meal that they can afford and eat.


Faith Anaya and the staff of her Little Rock-based cooking school Kids Cook! will provide their food expertise to the program. Anaya led a series of Kids Cook! workshops called “Kitchen Chemistry” at ASC earlier this year, funded by a mini grant from Blue & You. The organization’s mission is to provide children with hands-on cooking experience and to teach a wide variety of kitchen skills.


CrEATe Lab has three components: Cooking, gardening and shopping. Students are taught to independently prepare nutritious meals. Basic skills, such as how to properly wash, peel, chop and slice various food items and how to avoid illness from improper food preparation will be taught. A registered dietitian will also include provide nutrition workshops during the series.


The curriculum also includes a trip to the grocery store to learn about purchasing nutritious food on a budget, a trip to a garden to see where food comes from, and a community service component in which food will be prepared for a local food pantry.


The CrEATe Lab program is also supported by the Pine Bluff Area Community Foundation, an affiliate of Arkansas Community Foundation. In October, the foundation awarded ASC a $4,000 grant for the program.


ASC will offer one eight-week series from January through March 2020 for families, one five-session summer camp in July 2020 for kids, and one eight-week series September through November 2020 for families.


The desire to launch this series came out of the positive experience of the “Kitchen Chemistry” workshops, as participants showed an interest in cooking and nutrition and a willingness to attend. ASC staff saw the need to build on that interest to further enhance the lives of Jefferson County children and families.


“By involving the parents in these hands-on experimental workshops, there is more potential for the experience to have a long-lasting impact on the entire family’s eating habits,” said ASC Executive Director Dr. Rachel Miller. “Most importantly, we want to make sure participants have a fun while doing it.”


Jefferson County is one of the highest-ranking Arkansas Delta counties for obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Major contributors are the lack of physical activity and access to healthy food choices due to socioeconomic issues such as poverty and absence of infrastructure that supports a healthy lifestyle. In Pine Bluff alone, 54 percent of children live in a single parent household with 38 percent of children living in poverty.


The Blue & You Foundation announced its 2020 award recipients on Nov. 14, 2019. The foundation awarded a total of $3,467,872 in grants to 40 health improvement programs in Arkansas. Blue & You is Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s charitable foundation that promotes better health in Arkansas.


For more information about CrEATe Lab, contact ASC Public Programs Coordinator Shakeelah Rahmaan at 870-536-3375 or srahmaan@asc701.org. For more information about Kids Cook, visit kidscookarkansas.com.


About ASC


The Arts & Science Center, 701 S. Main St. in Pine Bluff, is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and closed Sunday and Monday. Gallery admission is free. Support for ASC is provided in part by the Arkansas Arts Council, an agency of the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Pine Bluff Advertising & Promotion Commission. ASC is a member of the Discovery Network, a statewide program of the Museum of Discovery. For additional information about ASC and to sign up for upcoming event announcements, visit asc701.org.