Feeding young minds in Fort Madison
SG Impact in Iowa (United States)
Fort Madison / 20 November 2019
A Sri Lankan-born chef and entrepreneur brought his original vision to life in 2015 with the creation of the Elliott Test Kitchen – offering academic tutoring and culinary classes. Kumar Wickramasingha is an experienced chef committed to the area’s students' academic success. The Elliott Test Kitchen offers a safe and healthy environment after school and evenings for youth who may not have such support in their homes.
As he prepares to start his fifth year of “celebrating education and great food,” Kumar is thrilled to be one of nine recipients of the Siemens Gamesa Impact awards. “This award couldn’t have come at a better time. The program is growing faster than I can change the minds of the community to support it.”
The community recently gathered to celebrate the award, including students, teachers, community leaders and Siemens Gamesa employees. They heard from Kumar and Siemens Gamesa Fort Madison plant manager Tony McDowell.
Kumar shared some of the background of the Elliott Test Kitchen story,and commented: “I’m humbled and honored to be recognized with such an award by a global company. When I started this program, someone asked me how I’d sustain it. My response was, ‘If you do something good, something good is going to follow.’ This is exactly what happened with this award. Thank you to Siemens Gamesa.”
Siemens Gamesa’s Tony McDowell commended the efforts of the program. “We’re all very proud that we get to recognize Kumar and the Elliott Test Kitchen with the Impact award for 2020. We congratulate you and thank you for the difference you’re making to the lives of the students, their families and the communities where we all live and work. On behalf of Siemens Gamesa, we’re proud to help further your mission.”
Having prepared a delicious and diverse buffet of Test Kitchen specialties for his invited guests, Kumar shared a comment that brought laughter from the audience, “Being from a small town, Fort Madison, Iowa, and receiving this Impact award is almost like Nelson Mandela winning the Nobel prize, except I have to do all the cooking.”
About the Elliott Test Kitchen’s work:
The Elliott Test Kitchen provides a unique solution to several critical needs. Fort Madison is home to the Siemens Gamesa blade facility, located in Lee County, Iowa. Lee Co. ranks 87th of 99 Iowa counties in per capita and median household income. Nearly 65% of school students qualify for free/reduced lunch programs due to low incomes. The ties between income and academic achievement are deep rooted. Elliott Test Kitchen strives to lift students from these circumstances through a two-pronged approach in an engaging after school program.
1. Teach youth to cook healthy meals while learning food and earth science, healthy nutrition and cooking skills, introducing applied STEM education, and providing them a decent meal.
2. Provide access to committed and caring adult mentors and educators to improve students' study skills and core education levels and engage students in giving back to their communities by demonstrating their cooking skills and providing meals to families in need.
For more information, see the Elliott Test Kitchen website at www.tkef.org or find them on Facebook @ElliottTestKitchen. Check out their YouTube videos by searching for Kumar Wickramasingha.