Families cook and compete at the Camden Kroc

By Hugo Bravo

The Salvation Army Camden Kroc hosted its 2nd Annual Horizon Foundation Cooking Challenge earlier this month. The event, sponsored by the Horizon Foundation for NJ and Camden Community Partnership, Inc., is a cooking competition where four families each create their own healthy, delicious dish using the same base ingredients. Judges then decide which family has made the winning dish.

“This year, the families used spinach, chicken breast, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes, while our in-house Kroc chef prepared side starches for each dish,” says Benjamin Ovadia, Community Resource & Development Director at the Camden Kroc. “We have guidelines that the families must all follow for the cooking. Sometimes the first thing they want to do is lather the food in butter or oil. We show them ways to keep their dish healthy.”

All the food preparation is done in front of a live crowd at the Kroc Center. The audience gets to enjoy snacks like crudité and talk to members of The Salvation Army and Horizon about the services they can provide for their families.

“Horizon is our premiere corporate donor in NJ, and Camden Community Partnership has made some great connections between us and the big names in the food industry, such as Campbell’s,” says Ovadia. “Both organizations are always looking to create family-friendly experiences in the community that promote healthy lifestyle choices and awareness. When they have events, they keep the Camden Kroc in mind, because we have the space to host them.”

Every family that competes in the Cooking Challenge is awarded a year-long membership to the Camden Kroc, with the winning family also receiving a state-of-the-art set of cooking pots and pans. The membership and kitchen products are examples of the Camden Kroc investing in the future of the participants and supporting them on their way to healthier eating.

“The families who participate are either very familiar with what the Army offers, or are learning about it for the first time,” says Benjamin. “One of this year’s families takes part in everything the Army offers, such as Star Search, day camp, everything.”

Families like those have a long-term relationship with The Salvation Army, says Benjamin. But the others can start theirs with being part of events like the Cooking Challenge.

“This is the event where people walk up to me and say, ‘This was so good for my family.’ I think it’s because you can bond over something like preparing food and creating a meal. You can make it unique, communicate with each other, and spend time together as a family,” says Benjamin.