Ara Sotelo is a Mexican immigrant who each year, during the summer, runs a cooking program in Ferndale that teaches children to cook healthy food.
“With the cooking program, we teach children to eat healthy and to cook their own food. We encourage them not to eat fast food and teach them how easy it is to prepare food in a healthy manner. We show them how safe it is to cook at home with the right ingredients,” says Ara, who is part of the Hispanic Cultural Center of Ferndale.
The idea came out as an alternative for their daughters. “Six years ago, I was looking for a summer camp to take my four girls. I took them to one in which there was no personalized training, nor did they teach them skills for their lives. There was only one supervisor who watched the kids but didn’t teach them anything,” says Ara.
For this reason, she decided to start her own camp. “We aim to teach children skills that will help them when parents are not home. For example, when children turn 12, they reach an age where they can stay home alone and cook their food.”
“Here, we motivate kids to know their food and get a taste of it. they get to learn how food impacts the body, and therefore build healthy habits that will help them when they reach adulthood,” she adds.
Children take this training at the First United Methodist Church in Ferndale. Ara has been working in these facilities for approximately four years. Last January, the church made a partnership with the Hispanic Cultural Center program, allowing them to do all the events there. “They support us both with these facilities that are wonderful, and with volunteers,” says Ara.
The program is very affordable; only the ingredients are charged. The program is inexpensive because it relies on volunteers, who donate their time, their skills, and sometimes even donate money.
With this initiative, Ara wants children to adopt healthier lifestyles in the future. “Through this program, I hope to educate children and create a healthy habit in them, so that they grow with it,” she concluded.