Foster Kids Learn About Nutrition, Get Job Training in Oakland Program

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Former foster youth, Kawanzza Byrd, is gaining culinary skills and tips on healthy eating through a youth program called GROW Oakland. (Ryder Diaz/KQED)

Editor’s Note: Project GROW Oakland trains young people to become chefs — to build job skills and healthy eating habits. Some youth are on probation; while others are — or were — in the foster care system. As part of our ongoing series of first-person health profiles called “What’s Your Story?” 19-year-old Kawanzza Byrd, a former foster youth, says the program has changed the way she eats. 

By: Kawanzza Byrd

When you’re in foster care, you really have no control over what you eat. With my partner when she was in foster care, they ate a lot of fast food. Every night. The foster mom, she didn’t cook: She just bought pizza. She bought hot pockets.The food we eat here gives us a different mindset. I wake up feeling different and thinking clearly. Everything that we make is from scratch, which means soups, stocks, salad, dressings, sauces.

I’ve witnessed people being murdered, that are not here anymore. You know, homeless, on drugs. Just not in the right path at a very young age. So, I really appreciate this program. It’s like a god’s gift to me because my passion is cooking and my goal is to own my own restaurant.

I like to see the smiles on people’s faces when they try my food. It gives me a warm feeling to know that I’m making somebody else happy.

Listen to Byrd’s story:

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