The mission of The Sylvia Center is to inspire young people and their families to eat well through hands-on learning experiences on the farm and in the kitchen. Through our programs, participants learn what fresh food is, how delicious it tastes, and how to prepare healthy meals on a daily basis. We teach skills that inspire our students to establish independent healthy eating habits — so that they may lead healthy and productive lives.
Where We Operate: The Sylvia Center conducts series cooking classes in afterschool programs and community centers throughout New York City. In these classes, children and teenagers are exposed to a wide variety of fresh food and instruction in the cooking techniques needed to prepare a simply, healthy meal. May through October, we bring children to our own Katchkie Farm in Kinderhook, New York. Here they plant seeds, and harvest vegetables that they cook into a meal while looking out over the farm and fields. They meet the farmer and learn about the work that goes into growing food.
Why We Do What We Do: 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. The Sylvia Center teaches young people an essential skill, how to cook healthy meals, so that they can make good choices for themselves and their families throughout their lives.
Who We Serve: The Sylvia Center works with about 3,000 young people a year in both New York City and Columbia County. Approximately 90% of those we work with qualify for free or reduced lunch at school. We work with elementary school-age children (7-12), teens (14-20), and their families. Our primary audience is young people living in public housing (NYCHA) in New York City but we are always developing new audiences. In the past, we have conducted classes at Inwood House, a home for teenage pregnant girls (funded by Bloomberg), and a 6-week program with Services for the Underserved (funded by a grant from TempPositions).
The Sylvia Center and its relationship to Great Performances: The Sylvia Center is an independent not for profit (501c3), founded in 2006 by Liz Neumark, CEO of Great Performances. The Sylvia Center supports itself through grants from foundations and donations from private individuals as well as through fundraising events.