At 15-years-old, Elba remembers first hearing about "healthy food" in elementary school. She says it was a no-questions-asked type of learning though; staff would simply hand out the food to students and succinctly say, "Here, this is healthy." While she learned certain foods were healthier than others, she says she never understood why, so her eating habits didn’t really change.
Something clicked, though, when Elba attended her first Get HYPE Philly! program at the Free Library of Philadelphia in fall 2016. The program is part of a city-wide initiative for youth development, funded by GSK, and brought to teens by several organizations.
"I’m not usually good at cooking but [Get HYPE! Philly] makes you feel like you’re good at it," says Elba. "One time we made sweet potato fries and we were cutting potatoes; I had never cut a potato before—how to hold it, how to cut it. Now we know why this food is healthy, why it’s good for us, and we know how to make it!"
Elba says the program also encouraged her to reflect on what she drinks and eats, and why. "GHP made me look at things differently... It made me look at food and say, ‘Why would I eat this?’ We made a really good citrus water drink and now, maybe instead of drinking soda or fake juice all the time, I will drink water."
The program also helps teens develop critical soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and leadership. In one particularly memorable lesson, Elba says she had a positive experience working together with fellow teens to make a pizza quesadilla.
"[Get HYPE! Philly] sends out a very positive message," says Elba. "I wish your grant was more than three years."
Teens, Join Us
Get HYPE Philly!'s free culinary literacy programs happen at varying times on Tuesdays and Thursdays at several free library locations. We encourage anyone ages 12 to 18-years-old to come check it out! Find out more by liking Get HYPE Philly! on Facebook or following us on Twitter and Instagram.
Get HYPE Philly! is made possible with generous support from GSK.