Professor and Filmmaker Kristine Diekman and five CSUSM students are spearheading a unique Video in the Community project, empowering low-income, immigrant and refugee youth to produce, film, direct and star as the hosts of a cooking show. The innovative project, titled Cooking It Up, introduces youth to film production while educating students about nutrition.

Funded by a $37,650 grant from the State Farm Youth Advisory Board, Cooking It Up integrates educational workshops on food justice, sustainable food systems and positive body image. Linking wellness to holistic, long-term changes in attitudes about food, the student-produced shows will be shared with community members to inspire others to cook healthy, locally-produced, affordable and culturally diverse meals.

The youth participating in Cooking It Up are served by the International Rescue Committee and attend Crawford High School, where 90 percent of the student population comes from a minority background and more than a third are refugees from over 20 countries, including Cambodia, Iran, Mexico, Sudan, Uganda and Vietnam.

CSUSM students have already begun hosting nutrition and video production workshops at Crawford High School, working with youth to practice cooking skills, identify recipes, reflect on their cultural culinary practices and begin documenting their experience through video. The nutritional lessons are led by community partner Leah’s Pantry.

In the spring students will begin producing four web-based cooking shows, launch the project’s website and blog, and create pamphlets about nutrition and food systems for their community.

“In just four short weeks, I have already seen the high school youth grasp the basics of nutrition, make healthy substitutions to their diets and become comfortable and creative with video production to document their process,” said Diekman. “Youth are interested in food and want to know how they can improve their diets. This project will help them understand not just the basics of nutrition, but also how to cook meals from their own cultures that are healthy and delicious, and share this through social media and video production.”

Cooking It Up is one of 68 projects selected this year by the State Farm Youth Advisory Board out of more than 900 submissions. The collaborative project brings together the resources and expertise of CSUSM’s Video in the Community, the International Rescue Committee, Leah’s Pantry and the City Heights Wellness Center.

The youth participating in Cooking It Up are served by the International Rescue Committee and attend Crawford High School, where 90 percent of the student population comes from a minority background and more than a third are refugees from over 20 countries, including Cambodia, Iran, Mexico, Sudan, Uganda and Vietnam.