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West Chester University cooking program helps adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities

Cooking programs at West Chester University help adults with disabilities with independence
Cooking programs at West Chester University help adults with disabilities with independence 02:11

WEST CHESTER, Pa. (CBS) — A culinary program at West Chester University is giving adults with disabilities the ingredients to be self-confident and independent.

The program, Ram Chefs, helps adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities learn how to garden and cook.

Ram Chefs provides them with culinary instruction, nutrition education and food safety skills during the academic year at West Chester.

Every Wednesday, 13 young adults with IDD from the community work with more than two dozen volunteers in the university's nutrition lab. The program's mission is to build self-confidence in young adults with the goal of cooking independence and employment in the food service industry.

With West Chester being on summer break, the program used their time this Wednesday to work in their community garden where they grow produce used for the meals they cook.

CBS News Philadelphia
CBS News Philadelphia
CBS News Philadelphia

Olivia Riehl, who is one of the 13 young adults in the program, said she loves being a part of Ram Chefs.

"When I come to the program, I get so excited to see everyone. We have so much fun," she said.

Jeanie Subach, the Ram Chefs program director, said these young adults are learning more than just cooking and gardening, but they're also developing social skills that she said can help them throughout their lives.

"When you talk to their parents, they tell us that it's more than cooking, it's the experiences that they're coming in and the relationships that they are developing," Subach said.

Not only with each other but also with West Chester University students who assist as their guides.

Ella Messner, who volunteers, said the relationship is beneficial for all.

"It makes me feel great and I just want them to know they are always going to be capable of doing something," Messner said.

And that's what it's all about planting the seeds of success. Now Riehl and her colleagues have formed strong roots and are ready to branch off.

"Believe in yourself. Always believe in yourself and always follow your dreams," Riehl said.

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