Cooking Matters is a Prescription for Healthy Eating




This past May our partners at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Curtis D. Robinson Center for Health Equity hosted a 2-hour Cooking Matters outreach with internal and external staff members. While Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Curtis D. Robinson Center for Health Equity has hosted numerous Cooking Matters for Adults classes, the goal of this outreach was to present an abbreviated Cooking Matters class to the staff to demonstrate the benefits of the program and the impact of Cooking Matters in the community they serve.

Our very own Cooking Matters veteran Class Manager Kellie Gilbert was the facilitator of this class. We talked to the group about the “MyPlate” strategy of healthy eating, which focuses on variety, amount and nutrition, as well as explained the importance of adding color and nutrients to the plate with various fruits and vegetables. We also conducted the blubber burger activity that showed the attendees the amount of fat in our everyday fast foods by placing the equivalent fat content of lard on a hamburger bun. The participants were very enlightened by this visual and expressed their concerns about what they currently eat and how they would like to change it.

The recipe for the day was Turkey Tacos with shredded zucchini, Northwest Apple Salad and Yogurt Parfaits with fruit. The staff worked together in small teams to cut, chop and cook each item and prepared a delicious meal for everyone to enjoy! It was interesting to note that many participants had never tried adding Zucchini in their tacos ever before. This was a great learning experience for many of them of what vegetables can complement their favorite dishes.

Thank you to the team at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, Curtis D. Robinson Center for Health Equity for their continued partnership, to help signify the importance of Cooking Matters in our communities.

KHAIR Spring Update



This was KHAIR’s second season having workshops on a local university campus. Program Manager Elvin Melendez says: “by having the workshops on a college campus, teenagers will be exposed to the possibilities of furthering their educational goals.”

Fifteen teenagers graduated from the KHAIR Classic program on Saturday, May 20 at the NHFPL(Courtland Wilson Branch) located on Washington Avenue. Eighty-Five family members and friends gathered to celebrate their children as they completed a 12-week program that focused on life-skills and self-esteem. Our keynote speaker was Dr. Marian Evans, Assistant Professor at Southern CT State Univ. Dept. of Public Health and Vice Chair of the CHNCT Foundation’s Board of Directors.





Seven Teenagers graduated from the KHAIR Wilbur Cross High School Enhancing Me Program. These students participated in several life skills workshops such as Team Building, Dress for Success and Social Etiquette, that will prepare them for high school.





The 4th Annual Walk4KHAIR is set to begin on June 19 and ends on August 7. This 50-day virtual walk will allow participants to login via Crowdrise, then record their steps from their fitness tracking device as they imagine themselves walking through the streets of 10 breathtaking countries in Europe.   Let your imagination take you through Europe as you start walking in Spain and end in Italy.  Your donation will help the KHAIR program continue working with teenagers who are at-risk. Visit for more information.



Preparations are taking place for the 10th Anniversary Celebration of the KHAIR Program. We will be inviting former graduates, workshop facilitators, clinicians, hairstylists and barbers, and program officials to take part in the momentous celebration. Details to follow!

KHAIR Spreads Its Wings


This past December, KHAIR extended its services to the Waterbury region and provided a three-day pilot program to seven teenagers from StayWell Health Center. The teenagers participated and were engaged in team activities that included workshops in Self-Esteem, Team Building, Financial Literacy, Social Etiquette, Nutrition Education, and Dress for Success. This was KHAIR’s first effort outside of the city of New Haven, where it has provided successful programming for 10 years.

One of the projects the students worked on was making vision boards. Their goal was to create a physical representation of what they hope to become in the future. The vision boards will serve as a motivational reminder that they have the ability to attain their goals and achieve their dreams. Some of the students aspire to become doctors, nurses, police officers, teachers, and writers.

KHAIR is looking to expand to other cities in Connecticut. “One of our goals is to bring KHAIR to the cities in Connecticut with high rates of at-risk teens,” said Elvin Melendez, program manager. “This program helps young people enhance their skills and raises self-confidence.”

Congratulations to the KHAIR Graduates of StayWell Health Center!

Alyssa French-Graham
Journey Parker
Jenesis Parker
Bath-Sheba Rascoe
Ezra Rascoe
Kira Rincon
Shera Tripp

Melendez added that in order to grow in this way, the program needs financial assistance. KHAIR is currently accepting monetary donations to help with this proposed expansion and its current programming. To make a donation, visit and click the “Donate Now!” button.

If you are interested in participating, volunteering, or hosting our KHAIR program. please call 203.949.4023 or visit

Cooking Matters programming at Clinton Avenue School

cmk-clinton-ave-schoolThis past December and January, Cooking Matters and the 21st Century After School program hosted a six-week Cooking Matters for Kids class at the Clinton Avenue School in New Haven, Connecticut. Each week, Cooking Matters instructor Gina Marie Vecchitto set up her “mobile kitchen” in the school cafeteria so 10 fifth-grade students could learn about nutrition and partake in hands-on cooking. The menus included apple and sunflower seed salad, turkey burgers, chocolate-strawberry French toast, smoothies, stove-top mac ‘n’ cheese, yogurt parfaits, mini-pizzas, and mozzarella sticks.

Surprisingly, it turned out that half of the students remembered  Gina Marie from a spring 2016 Cooking Matters demo at another New Haven school. The short 20-minute nutrition and mindful eating exercise with a single chocolate chip she did then had quite the impact on the kids.


At the final session of the Cooking Matters class, the eight students who attended all of the required classes received certificates of graduation. Many of them said that they really enjoyed learning to cook and hoped to do another class soon.

If you would like to volunteer, donate, or host a Cooking Matters class – visit



Successful year for KHAIR: See the Graduation!

Year In Review

The KHAIR program had an outstanding year helping teens build skills for their best future. This year, KHAIR had a 90% graduation rate and a 70% perfect attendance rate with programming in the Winter, Spring and Fall.


We would like to extend our enthusiastic appreciation to our dedicated group of volunteers, interns and workshop facilitators who helped this year. We could not have done it without your support. We also wish to thank our clinical partners, collegiate institutions and our network of hair stylists and barbers. Your desire to want to see young people succeed is evident. We appreciate you.

Thank you, everyone, for your part in making this a successful year!

Our new belief statement adapted in 2016:

Kids are Health when they have a positive Attitude and are Inspired to Reflect on their unique qualities.

Fall KHAIR Classic Graduation


Families, friends and invited guests witnessed 10 participants graduate from the KHAIR program on Saturday, November 5. The day was filled with excitement as staff and volunteers prepared the atrium at the Wilson Library Branch of NHFPL.

Graduates received certificates of completion; some also received perfect attendance awards, which included a gift card to Ashley’s Ice Cream  and a one-time hair service appointment from one of our participating stylists or barbers. In addition, all graduates received a $25 gift card from our Dress for Success workshop facilitator, the Gap.

Our guest speaker, Dr. Sheryl L. W. Barnes, encouraged the graduates to pursue their dreams and attain their goals. She stressed that that they have the power to change their future and they should be proactive in making decisions that will empower their lives. Towards the end of the program, Angela Acevedo, a 17-year-old KHAIR graduate, graced us with her voice as she sang an encouraging song with a message of resilience.

Congratulations KHAIR graduates!

Over $3,000 raised for Cooking Matters; plus our Special Olympics Connecticut Program in New Haven

Over $3,000 raised during Cooking Matters Month!

November we celebrated our annual Cooking Matters Connecticut month with a 30-day fundraiser. We highlighted our program and its participants all month long. We would like to say thank you to our corporate donors :

  • Stop & Shop Supermarkets
  • Mountain Rose Herbs
  • Lipper International Inc.
  • Tovolo


 Special Olympics Connecticut Program at Wilbur Cross High School!



From October 17 – November 21st, Cooking Matters hosted a class at Wilbur Cross High School sponsored by Special Olympics, where some of the kids are Special Olympics Connecticut  athletes.  10 teens participated in the early Monday morning program with Cooking Matters instructor Gina Marie Vecchitto. Most of the students were on a non-verbal spectrum and started off a little reserved and quiet the first few classes. As the sessions progressed, every student became more and more comfortable with both Gina Marie and the student volunteers.

Throughout the 6-week course the teens actively and enthusiastically engaged in preparing different kinds of recipes from the chopping, measuring, stirring, and completing all of the necessary tasks to enjoy the final meal which consisted of Veggie Pizzas on English Muffins, Mozzarella Sticks, tomato sauce and black bean brownies. By graduation day, every student was speaking and engaging more and expressed looking forward to the next class session. Instructor Gina Marie said, “This was an amazing group of teens and I can’t wait to work with them again!”

Visit for more information about our program!