Creating food and art help youth triumph
Nonprofit helps at-risk boys develop skills, leadership
It wasnt gourmet, but it was simple and soul-satisfying.
The teens at the Boys Group last week cooked up a feast of fettuccine Alfredo with chicken, broccoli and mushrooms, and apple cobbler for dessert.
Last month they learned to make sloppy joes and salad. They also tried their hand at fresh chips and salsa.
The cooking lessons are partly for building their skills and self-esteem, partly for practicalitys sake.
The boys are so hungry after school; most of their parents are working, says Laura Kutner, founder of a nonprofit called Trash for Peace. We were buying them snacks. We thought this was a great
The boys range in age from 10 to 18; most attend Madison High, while a few go to Grant High or Faubion Middle School. They are a diverse bunch, from places including Latin America, Puerto Rico and Polynesia.
Theyve been meeting as the Dekum Youth Empowerment Initiative through Home Forwards Dekum Court Housing community for at least three years.
Then Trash for Peace took over their mentorship, with the mission of educating youth about the importance of reducing, reusing and rethinking waste. Jumpstarted by a $1,195 community grant from the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods last year, Kutner helped them create functional works of art from scrap and recycled material.
Think wood donated from peoples old decks, construction projects and pallets; bike rims from bicycle shops; reclaimed paints, varnishes and wood glue from Metro; plastic bottles, caps and cans from businesses, schools and friends.
The Rebuilding Center and Habitat for Humanity ReStore also are good places to pick up hardware and other materials.
One of the most fun projects for the boys was a corn hole beanbag game, made from scrap wood and paints.
Theyre really talented artists; they need an outlet for it, Kutner says. There are so many things pulling these boys in different directions.
Recently Kutner added the cooking component to their twice-monthly meetings.
A chef and member of the Concordia Neighborhood Association, Robin Johnson, works with the group in kitchen space donated by the St. Michaels Lutheran Church.
Since reducing waste is the focus, the students talk a lot about how to make food with as little waste as possible.
That whole foods have less packaging, and eating healthy doesnt need to be expensive, which is a common misconception, Kutner says. Everything were doing, we want to make sure its accessible. We want them
to bring recipes from their cultures.
As the cooking and art classes continue, Kutner wants to add more outreach to the community in part through another element: a zero-waste pop-up cafe.
Running a cafe based at the church could teach leadership and entrepreneurial skills, she says. The boys would serve coffee to people on a donation basis, since theyre not a licensed kitchen. Theyd encourage people to bring their own reusable mug or enjoy their coffee in a mug on site.
Grants fund community projects
Trash for Peace is one of 11 projects that benefited from the Northeast Coalition of Neighborhoods Community Grant, now in its fifth year. Last years projects also included:
$1,195 to the International Plastic Quilt Project, a youth art project designed to raise awareness of plastic waste and consumption and promote activism. Two Northeast Portland elementary schools led a nine-week curriculum for 20 students, who collected 500 single-use plastic items. They created an art project with plastic quilt squares and made partnerships with six community organizations.
$1,195 to the Community Listening Projects PreSERVE Coalition, which held two Talk Taste Listen public sessions in June. The aim was to gather input from older African-Americans on their health concerns, barriers to health, and ideas for community-based activities that promote health. They focused on preparing healthy soul food with an African-American caterer, as well as physical exercise and balance with an African-American tai chi and qigong instructor.
$895 to Portland Playhouse for the production Left Hand of Darkness. More than 3,500 people attended the 34 productions of the show, which had themes that used literal aliens to explore issues of race, gender, sexuality, nationalism and the depiction of other.
$895 to the Sullivans Gulch Neighborhood Association for a one-day public charrette on the Broadway/Weidler Commercial Corridor. Neighborhood leaders covered topics involving economic, historical, environmental and infrastructure overviews. They collected public input from 63 participants with a range of interests.
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