In the Kitchen With Union League Boys & Girls Clubs

BGCA’s Zakiya Powell is back on ClubX with something SPECIAL just in time for the holidays.

When it comes to creating memorable experiences for the holidays what better way than to get into the kitchen and cook a meal together? There are many benefits to cooking with youth, and The Rachael Ray foundation has brought this experience to life for Club kids! 

The Rachael Ray Foundation and the Healthy Habits initiative has supported Boys and Girls Club of America through a partnership established in 2020. This partnership has provided 12 organizations with funding to help scale their programming around healthy food choices and the creation of a unique cookbook experience. 

The Union League Boys and Girls Clubs of Chicago teamed up with the Rachael Ray foundation to create a live cooking experience for youth at the Miguel A. Baretto Boys and Girls Club. Club kids were able to cook alongside Chef Andrew “Kappy” Kaplan and create a healthy holiday dish while learning new techniques they can use in the kitchen. Check it out, and keep reading for the recipe they created.

Cooking with youth can have a positive impact on their development in many ways: 

  1. Cultivating Healthy Habits: By involving kids in the preparation of meals, there’s an opportunity to instill healthy eating habits. Learning about nutritious ingredients and balanced meals can contribute to a lifetime of good health. 
  1. Embracing Creativity and Building Confidence: Cooking allows youth to express their creativity in the kitchen. Trying new recipes and experimenting with flavors can boost their confidence and willingness to explore new things. 
  1. Educational Benefits: Cooking provides a hands-on learning experience. It incorporates elements of math, science, reading and in some cases writing. Kids can learn how to measure ingredients, fractions, nutrition, and following instructions. 
  1. Life Skills: Cooking teaches essential skills, including organization, time management, teamwork, and problem-solving. These are valuable skills for the holistic development and future success of youth. 
  1. Opportunity for Bonding and Communication: Cooking offers a chance for meaningful conversations and bonding between family, caregivers and youth. Cooking together fosters quality time and communication. 

Thank you to the Rachael Ray Foundation and the Union League Boys and Girls Club of Chicago for your dedication to promoting healthy habits and fostering positive relationships in the community.  And thank you to the Club staff and amazing youth at the Miguel A. Barreto Boys and Girls Club for sharing your unique perspective, engaging youth daily in fun activities that showcase their culinary creations, and emphasizing the importance of making healthy food choices, especially during the holidays!

Rachel Love GIF by Rachael Ray Show - Find & Share on GIPHY

Make the same Sweet Potato Mash they made at the Club using the recipe below, and get three more variations from the Rachael Ray Foundation including Chipotle-Honey Sweet Potato Mash, Cheddar-Bacon Potato Mash, and Maple-Pecan Sweet Potato Mash by clicking here!

Rachael Ray’s Sweet Potato Mash

2 1/2 – 3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1/2 – 3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

Salt and pepper, to taste

Place the sweet potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water by at least an inch. Place over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender and they pierce easily with a fork.

Strain and add the cooked sweet potatoes back to the pot. Place the pot over low heat for about a minute to let any excess steam evaporate. Start to mash with a potato masher or a wooden spoon, add the chicken stock, season with salt and pepper and mash and mix to combine.

Serves 4-6

© 2023 Ray Marks Co. LLC. All rights reserved.

How do you incorporate health and food education into your programming? What are your favorite recipes to make with youth? Let us know! Comment below, on the BGCA Youth Development Facebook page, or email

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