Kitchen Connections: Junior League of Omaha’s signature program

Kitchen Connections is back for year two as the Junior League of Omaha’s signature program.

Through the program, JLO volunteers like you help transform Omaha, one young adult at a time.

The program in a nutshell

Kitchen Connections pairs a JLO mentor with a young adult mentee who’s recently aged out of the foster care system. Together, each pair will create healthy cuisine, community and a love of home cooking.

Each quarter, JLO volunteers are paired with a cohort of young adults through Project Everlast. Each month, the teams gather to:

·         Learn a healthy new recipe and nutrition basics

·         Cook together in a safe, fun and friendly environment

·         Share a meal and create community

At the end of each quarter, the young adults participating receive a complete kitchen kit including:

·         Mini-indoor grill

·         Pots and pans

·         Silverware, plates & cups

·         Knives and cutting boards

·         Food storage

·         Turners, spatulas, cooking spoons

·         Oven mitts

·         Kitchen towels and cloths

·         Mixing bowls

·         Measuring cups & spoons

“All of us involved in Community Impact placements are thrilled to have the opportunity to connect with young community members in such a fun, casual way. Cooking and eating together is one of the most powerful community building tools we have to offer!”—Ashley Quarles

What a typical meet up looks like

League volunteers assist program participants to make a recipe. During bake time and throughout the evening, the group also discusses tips on grocery planning, especially how to save money on quality ingredients, and everyone gets to taste test the creations.

Did you know?  All mentees receive access to a mobile app called “Affordable Flavors.” With their account, they get a 30-day menu, suggested shopping lists and over 100 pages of recipes – all at no cost.

Past successes

The recent sessions held earlier this Fall pushed mentees in attendance to try more challenging recipes, such as enchiladas, and the experience gave participants new skills in how to use knives to cut particular vegetables and how to shred rotisserie chicken.  

League volunteers also share a relevant lesson each session, such as “My Plate.” The “My Plate” framework shows visual examples of what a well-balanced, nutrient-rich plate should look like, in order to ensure the mentees get the vitamins and protein that they need.

“It has been a lot of fun seeing the mentees light up and get excited that the meal they had put together and prepped comes out delicious. They get to take any leftovers home with them as well.” – Ashley Quarles

You can make an impact

A new cohort will begin its three-month program in October.

If you want to share in the experience of connecting and community building, check out Digital Cheetah for the upcoming volunteer shifts on October 20 and November 17, held at Completely Kids.

The Junior League of Omaha is proud of its Kitchen Connections health food mentorship program to support Food Access in Omaha. We partner with young adults building a life after child welfare and help them establish healthy eating habits, learn lifelong home-cooking skills and equip their new homes with everything they need to prepare nutritious meals for themselves and their families.  

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