I like to make good food for my body.

Mariah, age 10Cooking with Kids: Santa Fe participant

Started in 1995, Cooking with Kids has grown from an all-volunteer effort in two Santa Fe schools to an integral part of 13 Santa Fe school communities.

Over 4,000 pre-kindergarten through sixth grade students in twelve Santa Fe public schools participate in our unique, hands-on food and nutrition education programs each year.

Cooking with Kids speaks to the way that young children learn and remember their learning. It is hands-on and actually becomes a part of each student in a way that is inescapable. They actually eat their learning!

2nd grade teacher, Turquoise Trail Charter Elementary SchoolSanta Fe, New Mexico

See what we’ve been up to! Take a look at our Annual Program Report.

2018-2019 Santa Fe Participating Schools

  • Amy Biehl Community School

  • Aspen Community Magnet School

  • Cesar Chavez Community School

  • Gonzales Community School

  • Kearny Elementary School

  • Nava Elementary School

  • Piñon Elementary School

  • Salazar Elementary School

  • Sweeney Elementary School

  • Turquoise Trail Charter Elementary School

Community Collaborations

  • Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS)

  • SFPS Student Nutrition Services

  • SNAP-Ed New Mexico

  • 21st Century Extended Learning Program

  • Communities in Schools of New Mexico

  • Farm to Table New Mexico

  • Museum of International Folk Art

  • New Mexico Department of Health, Healthy Kids Healthy Communities

  • New Mexico State University County Extension ICAN

  • Santa Fe Botanical Garden

  • Santa Fe Community College

  • Santa Fe Community Educators Network

  • Santa Fe Farmers’ Market

  • Santa Fe Food Policy Council

  • SFPS School Healthy Advisory Committee (SHAC)

  • University of New Mexico Prevention Research Center

Here’s how Cooking with Kids got its start.

Excerpt from “The Gift of Lynn Walters” by Lynn Cline
Local Flavor, September 2019

For more than 20 years, Lynn Walters has led a revolution that has transformed how children and their families eat. Sparked by an idea that hands-on learning in public schools could empower children and families to make healthy food choices, Lynn nurtured a small nonprofit from three volunteer chefs to a nationally acclaimed organization that has changed the lives of countless kids in Santa Fe and around the world.

The future came calling when, in 1994, the Santa Fe Student Nutrition Advisory Council asked Lynn to host a breakfast meeting about school meals at The Natural Cafe, known for its innovative international cuisine, including those East Indian specialties.

“At the time, I thought, “It’s not hard to cook real food, what’s the big deal about doing that in schools?” Lynn says. “But I didn’t realize the scope of the regulatory constraints, the history, the funding issues and the social context around nutrition and school meals.” She got permission for three chefs–Kelly Rogers then of La Casa Sena, the Natural Cafe’s Michele Watkins and herself–to work with cafeteria cooks for several days each in three Santa Fe schools.

“Kelly brought tomatoes, chile and cilantro from his garden and made fresh salsa and black beans,” Lynn recalled. “I had this idea that green beans could be a great finger food, so we just blanched them then served the crisp, bright green beans whole. The kids threw them away because most had never tried fresh beans and perhaps thought they’d taste like canned green beans. What we had was a clear and immediate failure.”

But Lynn and her team–particularly Program Director Jane Stacey–persevered. The meetings with the Student Nutrition Advisory Council continued and grew in size. Then Lynn heard about research on food acceptance by Antonia Demas–founder and director  of The Food Studies Institute. She was intrigued and called her.

“Antonia’s project was really interesting in that, to introduce new foods to kids, she had cooking classes in a school with half the students as the intervention group and the other half as the comparison group. She found that when these new foods were served as a side dish in the school cafeteria, the intervention group at five to 20 times more than the comparison group, which had no experience with the new foods.”

Antonia visited Santa Fe and taught a few classes at Salazar and E.J. Martinez elementary schools. Then Chef/Author Deborah Madison and Cafe Pasqual’s Chef/Owner Katharine Kagel, along with a few other chefs, volunteered to teach some elementary school classes, and thus, Cooking with Kids was born.

“That intention to improve school food never really went away,” Lynn says. “We adapted the recipes we developed for classroom cooking lessons for cafeteria use and for many years Cooking with Kids school lunches have been served as part of the regular menu rotation. We’re also now helping to design the menus in collaboration with the Santa Fe Public Schools’ Student Nutrition Department and highlighting school food staff and local farmers who sell their produce to the schools.”

Kids Cooking by George Ancona

Inspired by Cooking with Kids and featuring Kindergarteners in our Santa Fe program! Our dear friend and author George Ancona photographed and wrote this beautiful children’s book that offers a unique glimpse into children’s cooking classes. Available on Amazon.

Cook with the kids in your life!

The Cooking with Kids curriculum grew out of more than 20 years of experience in schools, and research shows that it works! When kids learn about and help prepare foods, they are much more likely to choose, eat and enjoy them. In the process, they learn and practice food preparation skills, build self-confidence and develop communication skills. Learn more about our cooking lessons.