By Diane Y. Welch
The Harper Branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Dieguito in Solana Beach is in full swing with its weekly Healthy Cooking Camp for kids. Using the facility’s Center for a Healthy Lifestyle, which opened on Earth Day 2009, camp director Amanda Curry has designed some exciting and creative culinary camps.
Already under way is Cooking Camp Route 66. Campers take a virtual transcontinental journey from Los Angeles to Chicago along the famed Route 66 and learn some geography and history along the way.
Connected with each city visited on their “road trip” is a healthy nutritious menu of regional recipes that the kids make themselves and eat at camp. Foods such as Wigwam Muffins, Arizona Sunrise Smoothies , Sweet Cadillac Chili, and Honest Abe’s Gingerbread Frozen Yogurt are some of the recipes that the kids try.
Campers keep daily journals, learn about kitchen safety, hygiene and nutrition, do arts and crafts, and outdoor activities when not in the kitchen. And at the end of the week they have their own recipe book. It’s all about creating an awareness that healthy eating is good for kids.
Pizza is a favorite recipe, said Curry, with the kids making the dough from scratch and then adding fresh herbs such as oregano and basil and fresh spinach straight from the garden. “When the kids actually pick the foods they absolutely will 100 percent eat it. It’s amazing to watch it happen. When healthy foods are just presented on a plate 10 percent of the time they’ll eat it. But if they pick and cook it themselves, they will eat it,” Curry stressed.
The organic garden, designed by landscape architect and Solana Beach resident Katie Pelisek, is a big part of the program. “It was my dream to take the kids out into the garden and have them harvest it and that is now coming true,” said Curry. Carolyn Perkins and Shawn Studer, owner of Instant Organic Gardens who provides worm castings and professional advice, each help keep the garden healthy and productive, Curry said.
For the past year Curry has led healthy cooking classes with both the general public and the Boys & Girls Club afterschool program. Jimbo’s has been a major sponsor and provides all of the food that is not grown in the garden, free of charge, to anyone who wants to take the cooking class.
Curry’s talent for engaging kids in healthy eating is a simple one. “The key to my philosophy with kids and cooking is that healthy food is fun. When you eat healthy you feel good and when you feel good that’s fun. And when you feel good you are able to do whatever you want to do when you’re a kid — run faster, jump higher, that’s the pinnacle of having a great life.”
She aims to educate kids that healthy food is not the drag that most people make it out to be. “Junk food is the drag!” she said. In line with her mission to educate kids about nutrition, Curry, until recently, produced a kids cooking show on Cox Community television, which she plans to revisit. Called the “Good Food Factory,” Curry would like to eventually film the show out of the Center for Healthy Lifestyle. “Filming what we are doing in the garden and in the kitchen, so that we can bring it to a wider audience in San Diego,” she said.
Upcoming themes for the next camps include an introduction to international cuisine and cultures through “Rock Star: World Tour,” July 18-22 and July 25-29; and learning about meals from bygone eras in “Past, Present and Future,” from August 8-12 and August 22-26. Visit
to find out more about the week-long camps or call 858 755-9371. Kids should be members (but it is free to join).