Officials see how program is doing

News Photo by Julie Goldberg Students of Project Student Gourmet meet Laurie Solotorow and Megan Murphy of the Michigan Health Endowment Fund on Monday. The Michigan Health Endowment Fund chose Program Student Gourmet as one of 11 groups to be awarded a grant.

ALPENA — The Michigan Health Endowment Fund was at the Alpena Senior Citizens Center on Monday to meet the students from ACES Academy who are a part of Project Student Gourmet.

Project Student Gourmet was one of 11 groups awarded grants from the Michigan Health Endowment Fund in the Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles category.

“We have never seen any project like this before in the years that we have been making grants,” senior program officer Laurie Solotorow said. “It’s exciting to us because the kids are learning about cooking and nutrition.”

Solotorow said the students are going to learn a lot inside the kitchen and outside of the kitchen.

“I think one of the things that was most exciting to us about this grant was the level of understanding that the kids are going to gain from spending time with folks of the older generation,” Solotorow said.

Solotorow said the students will gain a level of empathy toward older adults and appreciation from older adults in their lives.

After meeting the students, Solotorow and grants Manager Megan Murphy are excited to return to Alpena and check on the progress of the students.

“We will definitely come back,” Solotorow said. “We hope to be back and participate in one of their gatherings where the kids cook and serve the seniors and they have that interaction.”

Solotorow said she is more excited about the program after meeting the students.

“I had a pretty high level of excitement about it before, but I’m even more excited to hear about what they think and what their thoughts are about the learning process,” Solotorow said.

Murphy said it’s amazing to see the kids and how excited they are for the program.

“It also seems like the kids have really opened up in very short of time,” Murphy said. “They are making friends and it is a cool thing to see.”

Jess Krawczak is the instructor for Project Student Gourmet and has been spending a lot of time with the students in and out of the kitchen. Last week, the students learned about food safety and are starting to learn about nutrition.

“Seeing them grow already, from week one to week four, and seeing them open up is really awesome,” Krawczak said. “They are learning about nutrition and to see that it already has an impact on their daily nutritional choices is amazing.”

Solotorow praised Krawczak’s work with the students.

“I think that Jess and her level of enthusiasm and seeing how she connects with the kids is really powerful,” Solotorow said.

Krawczak said the students were excited to meet Solotorow and Murphy and get the chance to talk to them about what they have been doing with the program.

“It was a great opportunity to meet them,” Krawczak said. “Getting these kids to have intergenerational cooking with the seniors is awesome and a couple of these kids are starting to express themselves through cooking, so it’s a cool opportunity.”

Solotorow said the students will learn about social connections, health benefits, and a lot more while in the program.

“I’m excited about the opportunities that they might recognize from participating in this program,” Solotorow said. “The opportunity that they have once they finish school is really exciting.”

Julie Goldberg can be reached via email at jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5688.