Who We Are

On the farm and in the kitchen.

The Sylvia Center addresses issues in children’s health by providing hands-on experiences with growing and cooking healthy food.
At this critical time, when obesity afflicts two-thirds of America’s children, it is essential to familiarize young people with whole, fresh produce and advocate a healthier diet. We have yet to meet a child who doesn’t love to cook and play in a garden. Over time, children broaden their palates to welcome beets, kale, leeks, and squash to their tables.

The Sylvia Center was founded in 2006 by Liz Neumark, C.E.O. of the catering company Great Performances, in memory of her daughter, Sylvia.
The Sylvia Center was founded in 2006 by Liz Neumark, C.E.O. of the catering company Great Performances, in memory of her daughter, Sylvia. Since then the center has served thousands of children. Approximately 90% of those we work with qualify for free or reduced lunch at school. With the support of foundations, grants, and private partners, The Sylvia Center has worked with over fifty schools, community centers, and other family service organizations and is currently expanding its presence in public housing.

Our classes take place year round at community centers throughout New York City. In these six-week programs, children are exposed to a wide variety of fresh food and cooking skills, including chopping, kneading, mixing, whisking, sautéing and roasting. The Sylvia Center’s curriculum advances the knowledge and skills necessary to make smart food choices for oneself and ones family: familiarity with a wide variety of seasonal produce and its sources, the ability to recognize the components of a healthy meal, and the techniques required to execute simple recipes.


May through October, we bring children to our own Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, New York. Here they plant seeds, pull weeds, and harvest vegetables that they cook into a meal enjoyed while looking out over the farm and fields. They meet the farmer and learn about the work that goes into growing food. In many cases, it is their first experience outside of an urban environment.

Now more than ever, The Sylvia Center is an essential force for helping young people to establish lifelong positive eating habits, which will affect their well-being, productivity, and overall health. All of The Sylvia Center’s programs carry an important social component, as students work together as a group to share a sit-down meal. Equipped with new skills and knowledge, The Sylvia Center’s students enjoy healthier choices out in the world.


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