The Sylvia Center: NYC Food Based Community Organization Spotlight

by Alexina Cather, MPH

What they do: The Sylvia Center builds character through cooking, inspires young people to eat well, fights the epidemic of childhood obesity, builds lifelong healthy habits, and teaches teamwork and problem solving.

How they do it: Kids and teens gain confidence through cooking knowing they can do something beneficial for them and their families. Young people learn to work together toward the common goal of making delicious, healthy meals, and are encouraged to try new foods in programs and at home. Classes at The Sylvia Center show families that it is possible to eat fresh, healthy food on a budget, and studies show that cooking at home decreases childhood obesity.

Mission: 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 nutritious meals on a daily basis.

Latest project/campaign: A recently received a grant from Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation has allowed us to expand its education initiatives in Columbia County after-school programs with our wonderful program partners starting this fall. Through the grant, we will be able to expand our Seed-to-Plate program to include the Fresh Food Shares distribution project, which will give Columbia County students and their families access to fresh healthy ingredients and the skills to cook and eat well regularly and on a budget.

Major Funding: Blue State Digital, FOODMatch, Great Performances, Bloomberg Philanthropies, EILEEN FISHER Inc, Newman’s Own Foundation, The Pinkerton Foundation, Ample Table for Everyone, ALLINBKLYN, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation

Profit/nonprofit: Nonprofit

Annual budget: $1,660,480

Interesting fact about how they are working to positively affect the food system: Over five years, our expanded Seed-to-Plate program will enable food-insecure families to take full advantage of increased access, thus strengthening the local food system throughout the County by educating consumers on how to utilize local produce and by establishing new distribution channels that increase the flow of local and regional products that would otherwise go to waste.


Location: Manhattan

Core Programs: Young Chefs Culinary Program, Teen Chef: Skills for Life Program, Cooking Together: Family Cooking Program, Expanded Apprenticeship Program, Green City Force Culinary Program

Number of staff: 20

Number of volunteers: 13

Areas served: All five boroughs and New York State

Date started: 2007

Director: Anna Hammond

Contact, (212) 337-6075

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