MEO Youth Services Families Cook Up Pasta and Quality Family Time
About a dozen Maui Economic Opportunity Youth Services families chopped garlic, boiled pasta and reduced cream on their stovetops at home — under the livestreamed guidance of two local chefs — to whip up some Alfredo pasta and quality ʻohana time.
“Dinner is all about family,” Montage Kapalua Bay chef Justin Horne told the families while being livestreamed. “A lot of times, nowadays, people have hectic schedules going on, work evenings, work nights. They got homework, practices, whatever. But dinnertime is a nice time for everybody to gather around as a family, talk about your day, whatever you have on your mind. It’s a good time to do those things.”
Thirteen families and almost 70 people joined the Zoom presentation of ʻOhana Night: Cooking Edition on Wednesday, April 14. Horne and Cory Wells, former chef at Mama’s Fish House, guided the families through the process of preparing Alfredo pasta and a Caesar salad from a kitchen set up at MEO offices in Wailuku.
The families were sent a packet of ingredients for the meal and followed the step-by-step instructions from the chefs as the MEO conference room filled with the sweet aroma of cream sauce.
The format allowed for two-way interaction with the families from their homes. At the end of the hour-long prep period, all the families gave their dishes – and the ʻOhana Night: Cooking Edition – a thumbs up.
“Me and my family really enjoyed the ʻohana cooking night because when we got together we made a meal for all of us, and during that time, we were talking about positive stuff,” said Xavier Arcangel.
“Me and my family enjoyed the ʻohana cooking night a lot,” said Kaikea Barona. “The food at the end was really delicious.”
Kahlen Boteilho-Dougherty said, “It was super fun and a good experience for all the families.”
The chefs both have ties to MEO and in the euphemism of the nonprofit agency were “volun-told.” Horne is the brother and Wells, the husband, of Kristin Wells in Youth Services.
“We wanted to do a family strengthening event, where the families spend quality time and cook together,” said Dane Kaʻae, director of MEO Youth Services. “You know, locals love getting together, sharing food and memories.
“Studies have shown regular family dinners are associated with lower rates of depression and anxiety, substance abuse, eating disorders, tobacco use and early teenage pregnancy, as well as higher rates of resilience and self-esteem.”
“We are trying to increase youths’ protective factors and reduce their risk factors,” he said.
ʻOhana Night is a series of events designed to improve and strengthen the family unit by engaging in positive activities. Past activities have included game nights, including Bingo and Scattergories, and jig-saw and gingerbread-house making.
MEO Youth Services, one of five divisions at the Community Action Network nonprofit, offers an evidence-based educational curriculum and programs that deal with substance abuse and teen suicide prevention, cyberbullying and life- and career-skills training. After-school and school-break programs, leadership activities and community service projects also are offered to youths and families.