Doing Business in Windsor: Cooking teacher hopes to pass love of healthy eating on to area children | MyWindsorNow.com

Doing Business in Windsor: Cooking teacher hopes to pass love of healthy eating on to area children

Emily Wenger
ewenger@mywindsornow.com

Sapna Von Reich wants to help children start healthy cooking practices early.

It runs in her family, and she learned to cook at a young age, but a few years ago she noticed that outside her family, not many of the children around her were cooking for their families.

She started teaching cooking classes shortly after she moved to the U.S. from India in 2001. After her son was born, and then her daughter, and Von Reich decided to be a stay at home mom, she started to miss work. Being a mom was plenty of work, she said, but she wanted to get out of the house and connect with people around her a little more.

So she offered a once a month cooking class. She taught Fort Collins residents about Indian food, and said one of the best parts about her first cooking classes was connecting with other moms, and sharing her culture with them.

But she soon discovered she loved teaching about food, and she wanted to learn and teach more.

After her children were old enough she felt she could devote more time to teaching, Von Reich became a Food for Life instructor in 2011. The classes, designed by the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine, were just what Von Reich was looking for, because they allowed her to focus on kids.

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Most of her classes, Von Reich said, are attended by 6-12-year-olds. That age group, she said, is a great one to start teaching healthy cooking to, because they soak up knowledge like a sponge.

"It's harder to change a 16-year-old than 6-year-old," she said.

Von Reich, who teaches at senior centers, the Clearview Library, the Windsor Community Recreation Center and other locations in northern Colorado, said her kids classes almost always fill up right away. Her classes range in size from 12-25 kids.

Sometimes the children she teaches are a little skeptical of the food she introduces them to, like when she told one group they were going to learn to make hummus.

"They'll say 'yucky, I'm not going to try this,'" she said with a laugh.

But once they've had a taste, many say they can't wait to show their families what they've learned, Von Reich said.

She also enjoys teaching them to blend green plants into their smoothies. They mostly get excited about the bright green color, but the flavor makes them happy too, because it also includes fruits like bananas.

One kid, she said, tore his cup to be able to lick the bottom of it to get as much of his smoothie as he could.

Von Reich said she's often impressed by how quickly the children she teaches pick up on cooking skills, and said most just needed the chance to try.

"It's just amazing, sometimes we're just too busy as parents to get involved and really teach them about food," she said.

Teaching them healthy eating early can improve their health for years to come, Von Reich said, especially if parents encourage continued learning at home.

"A lot of kids are ready to make dinner, just give them the chance," she said.

Her other classes, from preschoolers to adults, also focus on healthy, plant-based cooking. Although the group classes are enjoyable, her new project is working one-on-one with families and individuals to help them make lifestyle changes toward healthy eating.

Not all her recipes have an Indian influence, but the ones that do always make Von Reich think of her mom, and all the time she and her siblings spent helping her cook.

She hopes she can pass that love of healthy food onto new generations.

If you go

Sapna Von Reich will be teaching teen cooking classes throughout the summer at the Windsor Community Recreation Center, 250 11th St. To register, call (970) 674-3500. For more information go to sapnavonreich.com.