Oh, how My Daughter's Kitchen has warmed up

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My Daughter's Kitchen program director Maureen Fitzgerald, left, talks to the volunteers who had gathered at Vetri Foundation for Children, to go over what to expect in the coming weeks of the program. Volunteer Andrian Seltzer, center, listens.

My Daughter's Kitchen has taken on a life of its own!

What started as a blog to help my daughter do more of her own cooking has turned into an after-school program with 20 volunteers in 10 schools teaching 50 children to cook this spring.

What started as a lament that cooking has become a lost art, and then a challenge to come up with easy, healthy, cheap recipes, evolved a year ago into cooking classes at St. Martin de Porres in North Philadelphia.

The stories drew an outpouring of letters from readers, many of whom encouraged me to expand to more schools. Several even volunteered to teach classes.

So last fall I sought help from the Vetri Foundation, which shares the goal of healthy eating for children. The foundation solicited Brown's ShopRite, which generously agreed to donate food.

With our reader volunteers, we started classes in five schools last fall.

This spring, the program took another leap, with the help of Stacy Holland, chief of strategic partnerships for the Philadelphia School District. She found three district schools with working kitchens where we could offer the program in addition to Bayard Taylor, where I taught last fall, and where Lorrie Craley, the teacher who helped me, is taking over with another teacher, Nicole Molino.

Two restaurateurs, Sarah Ginn and Kriti Sehgal from Pure Fare, reached out to nearby Greenfield Elementary School. And now they are teaching a class at their restaurant.

Friends from South Jersey wanted to bring the program across the river. Sacred Heart School in Camden signed on as a host.

Brown's ShopRite has continued to supply the food, a $3,000 donation for last fall and this spring. And readers donated nearly $4,000. That money paid for virtually all the other expenses, the pots, pans, and cooking supplies for volunteers.

So I would like to say thank you. To the readers who encouraged me and those who donated to the cause; to all the volunteers. And huge thanks to Kelly Herrenkohl and Elise Farano at the Vetri Foundation, for their hard work. You have all made a difference!

A postscript: My daughter gave up the blog when she started medical school. But after learning about all the diseases related to unhealthy eating and obesity, she and several classmates have started cooking classes at an after-school program in New Brunswick, N.J., where they are studying. They made spinach and chicken quesadillas for their first class. The circle is complete.


Participating schools

Philadelphia

Albert Greenfield, 2200 Chestnut St. (classes taught at Pure Fare restaurant)

Henry Lawton, 6101 Jackson St.

William Loesche, 595 Tomlinson Ave.

Juniata Park Academy, 801 E. Hunting Park Ave.

Bayard Taylor, 3698 N. Randolph St.

Community Partnership, 1936 N. Judson St.

St. Martin de Porres, 2300 W. Lehigh Ave.

St Martin of Tours, 5450 Roosevelt Blvd.

Wissahickon Charter, 4700 G Wissahickon Ave.

Camden

Sacred Heart School, 404 Jasper St.