Life skills on the menu for Kingston's youth

Big Spoon Lil’ Spoon brings cooking basics to kids with exceptionalities 

Preston with a student.
Credit: 
Supplied by Taylor Welsh
Two Queen’s students are teaching children with exceptionalities essential life skills out of a President’s Choice cooking school on Princess St.
 
Founded by Victoria Preston, Sci ’21, and Delaney Clarke, Sci ’21, Big Spoon Lil’ Spoon pairs student volunteers, the ‘Big Spoons,’ with children, the ‘Lil’ Spoons’, in a hands-on kitchen environment to teach the basics of preparing a meal.
 
The organization currently serves more than 50 children in the Kingston area with exceptionalities like Down Syndrome, Attention Deficit Hyper-active Disorder, and Autism Spectrum Disorder.
 
The decision to focus on cooking classes was grounded in Preston’s and Clarke’s own experiences as university students. 
 
In an email to The Journal, Preston explained that when she moved out of residence, one of her primary concerns was how she would cook her own meals.
 
“Food is at the centre of so much of what we do and is such an integral component of culture and society,” she said. “Learning the basics of how to build a healthy and balanced meal is critical.”
 
Preston also emphasized the creative aspect of cooking, which she says allows the ‘Lil’ Spoons to make their own creations and showcase their own personalities. 
 
Since establishing the organization in 2018, Preston and Clarke have employed creative fundraising tactics and a strong social media presence to raise both awareness and money for supplies and renting kitchen space.
 
A shinny hockey tournament in January raised more than $3,000 to subsidize the costs of kitchen and equipment rental for parents, making use of major sponsors like Steamwhistle Brewery, Pita Pit, Rockstar, and Monster Energy.
 
In the fall of 2018, Preston and Clarke applied and were accepted for the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI).
 
The QICSI offers a 17-week paid summer internship for post-secondary students with an entrepreneurial goal, along with seed money to help fund their business ventures.
 
Preston said that working with the QICSI has helped her team develop a coherent business model and strategically plan for the future.
 
Big Spoon Lil’ Spoon has also become involved with ME To WE through the WE Incubation Hub, a program that empowers youth to develop social entrepreneurship initiatives by giving them access to resources and mentorship.
 
Preston said her perspective of success has evolved throughout the journey, and she now has big goals for the program.
 
“I can’t wait until we release our future plans and ideas for expansion,” she said. “I think a long-term goal would be to expand to over 10 different university campuses across Canada and to make Big Spoon Lil’ Spoon a nation-wide program.”
 
Big Spoon Lil’ Spoon is already on track to expand to the University of Toronto by the fall of 2019. 
 
The most important measurement of success for Preston and Clarke, however, is that the organization remains grounded in its core principles.
 
“Our primary goal has always been to ensure the Lil’ Spoons are having fun and that they are learning something valuable that will have a positive impact on their life,” Preston said. “If we can accomplish that, then I think we are already successful in what we are trying to do.”
 

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