Students Learn to Prepare Healthy Foods

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With summer coming quickly, many middle school students will be spending long hours at home alone, while caregivers are working or out of the home for various reasons. During these hours, youth often choose to consume convenient, pre-packaged foods that may be less healthy for them in the long run – partially because they lack the skills to cook and prepare healthier options. However, this is changing for students at West Middle School.

Beginning in March of this year, the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Montgomery County partnered with Communities in Schools to implement the Teen Cuisine program in the afterschool METAL program. A total of sixteen students have completed the program, which aims to empower youth to make healthy decisions regarding their food choices by not only educating them about the benefits of nutrition, but teaching them the skills they need to prepare healthy foods.

Led by Rhonda Peters, the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, students learned basic knife skills, along with food preparation techniques and food safety. By the end of the program, students had successfully prepared an orange-yogurt fruit dip, Chinese vegetable stir-fry, basic omelets with spinach and onion, baked chicken nuggets and baked fries, whole wheat strawberry muffins and banana pudding. In the process, students learned to read a recipe correctly, how to measure ingredients, and even how to clean up after themselves! Reading a food label, the importance of portion control, balanced nutrition with My Plate, the importance of snacks and the power of breakfast were all key concepts that were taught during the series.

After making an omelet for the first time in his life, one student astonishingly remarked, “I made this. I really made this!!! By myself!!!! And it tastes good, too!”  Another boy commented, “I’m going to make these all summer long!”  Emily Nicholson, the Communities In Schools Site Coordinator at West Middle School said, “the students have really enjoyed the program and look forward to showing their families what they can do. It’s wonderful to see them so excited about the new skills they’ve gained.”

The Teen Cuisine program will be offered a part of the 4-H Summer Adventures program in Montgomery County and Peters hopes to continue the program at West Middle School next year and expand it to the east side as well.

If you would like more information about the Teen Cuisine program, or other nutrition and wellness information, please email Rhonda_Peters@ncsu.edu.Image of teen cooking Image of teen cutting vegetables Image of teen cookingImage of boys cooking