Coqui the Chef Helping the Youth Build Healthy Habits

What if home economics was part of the youth school curriculum. Learn about nutrition, cooking, baking and even sewing basic life essentials

Photo of Tania Lopez
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Founding Story: Share a story about a key experience or spark that helps the network understand why this project got started or a story about how you became inspired about the potential for this project to succeed.

The rise in obesity, diabetes and asthma in my community (the South Bronx), made me realize that my undeserved neighborhood needs to be educated on how to build healthy habits. I studied Dietetics and Nutrition Science and went to culinary school so I can teach the youth how to cook dishes that are full of nutrition and help them build their palate for new flavors. I believed the best way to get their attention was with a fun character I created a frog dressed like chef, Coqui the Chef.

Which categories describe you? (the answer will not be public)

  • Hispanic, Latinx, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian)


Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your organization headquartered? [City]


Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [State]

  • New York

Location: Where is your project primarily creating impact? [City]


Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Our project is teaching youth and their parents about nutrition and how to cook with the hopes of lowering obesity, diabetes and asthma rates in the South Bronx. There are many fast food restaurants and supermarkets that sell a lot of processed food in the South Bronx. Our cooking classes teach how produce can improve health and how flavorful it is. We teach them to taste and to combine ingredients to make fresh salsa, smoothies, and salads.

A family that bonds well gives strength and courage to their children.  New York city lifestyle and work life can take a toll on a family. There are so many ways to lose yourself in all that it offers. But one thing we have to remember is to create plays a big part in that.  Cooking can be time consuming but so is going to the doctor because of illness due to the type of food you eat and lack of exercise.  Cooking connects people. Smell of cooking and taste creates memories. Our model is to teach youth and their parents that cooking leads to a stronger and smarter life while creating a family bond.  

Is your model focused on any of the following traditionally underserved communities?

  • Low-income communities

Does your model work within any of the following sectors?

  • Education

Year Founded


Project Stage

  • Growth (the pilot has already launched and is starting to expand)

Example: Walk the network through a specific example of what happens when a person or group engages with your solution.

Students were instructed on how to prepare themselves for the class. Each student had their own workstation with a cutting board and safety knife. The ingredients are displayed on the worktable in front of the students. All ingredients and their health benefits were explained. Students are encouraged to smell all of the ingredients. Depending on the type of class/workshop kids are given a cert of completion and chef hat and apron to keep. Parents help the students with tasks like holding the knife and cutting. This type of interaction helps with communication with the parent and student.

Impact: What was the impact of your work last year? Please also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

Cooking with Kids delivered a food education curriculum that exposed predominantly low-income Hispanic elementary school children (grades K-6) to fresh, affordable foods through multi-cultural cooking lessons and fruit and vegetable tastings. We chose this instrument due to the similar demographic profile of our target audience and the content of the curriculum. Overall average scores (17 to 85) of fruit and vegetable preferences (FVP) increased from 59.67 at pre-test to 63.5 at post-test. FVP average fruit scores (six to 30) increased from 27.67 to 28.33.

Organization Type

  • for-profit

Annual Budget

  • $1k - $10k

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is your solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

We are traveling chefs which means we teach in private/public/charter school, after-school organizations, etc. Our income comes from short or long term contracts we have with these organizations.

Unique Value Proposition: How else is this problem being addressed? Are there other organizations working in the same field, and how does your project differ from these other approaches?

There are other organizations who are doing the same work but are working in privileged communities and most speak only English. What makes us unique is that we teach in both English and Spanish, work with low-income communities and with private schools who want to do community work for credit.

Reflect on the Field and its Future: Stepping outside of your project, what do you see as the most important or promising shifts that can advance children’s wellbeing?

Family support more quality time in families. Talking with one another setting aside time to do things together like cooking or talking while eating dinner on the table.

Source: How did you hear about the Children’s Wellbeing Challenge? (the answer will not be public)

  • Email

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Lacy Stephens

Fantastic, Tania! Great to see this fun and innovative initiative that embraces and celebrates culturally appropriate nutrition education.