Wednesday, February 6, 2013

First night helping with Cooking Matters

               On Monday I had the great pleasure and honor to help out for the local Cooking Matters program at Somersworth Middle School under coordinator Alexis Riffel. It was the second week of the six week program so things are just getting started up! During the after school program we had about a dozen middle school students join in on the fun and interactive cooking and nutrition class. We began the afternoon by sitting in a circle discussing what the group learned last week, knife skills and preparing Asian vegetables. Then we began with the lesson of the day: colorful fruits and vegetables! Before the lesson we prepped sampler platters of kale chips, snow peas, sugar snap peas, persimmon, cactus fruit, kumquats, kiwi, and star fruit. We then passed around the platters while the kids decided which new food they wanted to taste together. The nutritionist leading the lesson would let the kids openly describe this new food and to make guesses as to what it was, and then explain after what it is and why it is a healthy snack! It was a lot of fun to see the kids reactions to each of the foods, some received a sweeping appeal while others got somewhat snubbed. I really enjoyed how the majority of the kids made an effort to at least try each of the foods on their plate.
The next activity got the group jumping with excitement: the pizza challenge! We split the group up into two teams who were each responsible for crafting their own pizza with the end goal to be incorporating as many colorful veggies onto the pizza in a presentable manner. After reviewing knife skills we let the groups wander off into their masterpieces. It was great to see each team of five or more kids all working together and allowing everyone to have a say as for what was going to go on the pizzas. One of the boys came up to me and asked if he could put some of the extra fruit from the sampling on the pizza….I told him he could put whatever toppings he wanted! Because I mean…someone had to first come up with putting pineapple on pizza, so who knows…maybe kiwi and star fruit will soon be popular toppings!
While waiting for the pizzas to cook, Alexis shared with the kids a drink recipe to try at home: mixing a small amount of 100% grape juice with seltzer water. The kids went crazy over this and seemed to understand when the nutritionist explained to them that this can cut down on a lot of sugar per cup in comparison to having a full glass of grape juice. It is a really great soda alternative for both kids and families to adopt.
Excitement filled the air as the pizzas came out of the oven. You could see the pride each of them had in creating this delicious edible masterpiece! Each of them got to try a piece of their own as well as a piece from the other group’s pizza. After the lesson the kids all receive ingredient bags with all of the supplies as well as the recipe to bring home to prepare sometime that week with their families. This is great not only for helping to supply a family with food but to also encourage cooking together at home and for the kids to share an experience with the ones they love.
I am really happy to be working with this great organization for the next month or two and I hope that I can continue to help out in other ways in this organization.  
Cooking Matters is a branch of Share our Strength, a national organization with goals to end hunger in America. They have a wonderful website with loads more information as well as links for those looking to help out by donation or volunteering. Check it out!

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