This groundbreaking after-school series offered by long-time Valley residents Terrie Irish and Mary Griffin proved to be a huge success, teaching students to cook delicious, whole, nutritious and affordable foods. Terrie says, "Teaching kids to cook empowers them to make smart decisions about what to eat and enables them to make a formidable contribution to their families."
During the teaching and cooking process Terrie’s instruction enlightens the students to the importance of relationships with local farmers at the market and allows them to make the connection "from the dirt to the plate, hard work to dignity, from responsible choices to healthy bodies." Not to mention having a lot of fun in the process!
Recently Terrie invited her students to her home for a graduation reunion event. This lively evening included making personalized pizzas from scratch (dough and all), with toppings such as pesto, goat cheese, peppers, onions, tomato, pineapple and much more. They then watched the pizza bake in a huge outdoor pizza oven (custom made by Terrie’s husband, Ken) and finally enjoyed the fruits and vegetables of their labor by sitting down to an amazing pizza feast. After the mouth-watering pizzas were enjoyed and consumed by all, the students then gathered for an informal meeting to discuss their future endeavors. One of which was making a presentation to the Riverview District PTA at their recent all-district meeting.
When asked about all they had learned during their cooking classes, the students explained how their’s and their families eating habits have changed. They said, "We now eat more salads and fruits, our parents buy organic foods whenever they can, and we actually enjoy helping our parents in the kitchen!"
They also gave details of some of the more intense lessons learned, such as "junk food is like hot wax on our tongues, it keeps us from enjoying the ‘true taste’ of many foods," and "if you can’t pronounce the ingredients in a particular item you probably shouldn’t buy it." They also highlighted some of the many safety lessons they had learned regarding cross contamination of foods and the importance of safe knife skills.
The hope of the KidsCook program is to equip 5th graders with cooking skills, shift their eating patterns and provide support for parents working to give their children healthier options.
Terrie explains, "Children’s eating habits are formed by the time they are 12 years old, and as a result of rampant childhood obesity, one in three children born after the year 2000 will develop Type II diabetes in their pre-adult years." Studies from other school districts have found "The more children are exposed to a food, the more they are likely to taste it and adopt it as a regular part of their diet … great things happen when children have a hand in preparing their own food. They are trying new foods they never thought they would like, which leads them to become more independent food explorers in their lives outside of school."
Classes for the spring 2011 six-week session of KidsCook will begin on Tuesday, April 26th. Classes will be held at Tolt Middle School each Tuesday from 3:45 – 6:30 p.m. The cost is $48 per child, and scholarships are available.