Jackie Barba, 14, cuts and prepares chicken inside the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center on Aug. 3, 2022. (Photos/Eric Deabill)

WILKES-BARRE – Every Wednesday this summer, young adults have been coming together inside the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center to “cook up” something special.

This week, the kids made Italian Chicken, stuffing and green beans to share with other kids in their community who might be less fortunate.

The preparation and cooking is new to many of them.

“First, we had to cut the chicken and make sure there was no excess skin. Then we had to season it and cook it,” Jackie Barba, 14, of Wilkes-Barre said.

This effort is known as the “For Kids, By Kids” Food Program.

It was an idea developed from youth involved in community service through the Luzerne County Juvenile Wellness Court.

John Prater, 16, left, and fellow student, Fox Barba, 12, begin to package the meals that they prepared.

Other kids, like John Prater, who attends the Catholic Youth Center on a regular basis, wanted to participate in the effort.

“I’ve always had a passion for cooking. I’ve always liked cooking. I’ve always liked the idea of cooking for other people,” the 16 year old said.

Each week, the kids prepare and package up 150 meals that are donated to the community outside Kistler Elementary School.

“They may depend on our meals to help them through the day because you never know what is going on in somebody’s life. They may really need that meal,” Prater said. “They may want to give it to somebody else that they know who really needs it. Just the knowledge that you may be helping someone is enough to keep me going and keep cooking.”

With inflation at its highest level in decades, the students know their efforts are making a difference.

“It is kind of hard right now,” Fox Barba, 12, of Wilkes-Barre explained. “With gas prices that are high, they can’t really afford much food because they need to get to work and that is a lot of money for gas.”

Students involved in the “For Kids, By Kids” food program distribute meals outside Kistler Elementary School in Wilkes-Barre.

Besides helping the hungry in the community, the program is also teaching the young adults life-long culinary skills.

The kids taking part range in age from 12 to 18.

While this is the first year for the “For Kids, By Kids” food program, Mark Soprano, executive director of the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center, hopes it will not be the last.

“This is a pilot program. We have funding for this summer. We don’t know what next summer is going to bring and it’s certainly something we want to do again next summer and even expand on the program so we’re always looking for other funding sources to help support the program and more volunteers. We hope to grow this program. We’re serving 150 meals today. We hope we can double that for next year,” Soprano explained.

For more information on the “For Kids, By Kids” program, contact Soprano at the Wyoming Valley Catholic Youth Center, 36 South Washington Street, Wilkes-Barre, or call (570) 823-6121.