Adrienne Ryherd Considers Pint-Sized Chefs: When Kids Rule the Kitchen

Gracie Cavnar
Vote 0 Votes
This story from Adrienne Ryherd, who volunteers at MacGregor Elementary:

"Think it's improbable (or impossible) for young students to get energized about cooking and eating healthy foods? I thought so too.  Think again.

Kids-chopping.gifI recently heard about the RFS Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Program (S2P)- designed to involve children in the entire process of healthy eating and targeting under-served schools where nutrition education is needed most.  It began in 2006 as a pilot program in Houston schools such as MacGregor Elementary (which now continues as one of the program's showcase schools.)  They reported earlier this year that because of overwhelming success, will soon be available nationwide to licensed S2P Affiliate Partners.   I wanted to see for myself.

Walking into the MacGregor Elementary (one of Recipe for Success Foundation's Showcase Schools) classroom is akin to walking into a proper test kitchen, only this kitchen happens to be in an elementary classroom that is tailored to fit the culinary needs of young students - in this case, 1st graders, to be exact. Mobile cooking stations outfitted with all the necessary cooking utensils are lined down the center of the room and kid-friendly diagrams (food plate, ABCs of vegetables, the five tastes) adorn the walls, making the atmosphere approachable and exciting.

As the children filed in, anticipation tangible in the air, they all knew the routine. After picking up their very own Recipe for Success apron, they proceeded to wash their hands and take their places at a cooking station of their choice.

Choices - healthy ones, that is- are exactly what the S2P program is encouraging young students to make. And what better way to approach this goal than by including the students in every step of their cooking journey, from the seeds they plant in the school gardens to the type of dishes they prepare in the classroom (a.k.a. kitchen).

Before food preparation began, the students and Alyssa, (a Recipe for Success Foundation staff chef and "Team Leader" at this school), engaged in conversation regarding the dish of the day.  It was "green eggs and ham." But this children's classic had a twist:  instead of using green food coloring, the children used different types of greens (harvested from their very own gardens on the school grounds) to create a pesto to be mixed into the eggs. After identifying and discussing all the greens they would be using (and the list was prolific, even for an adult) such as mustard greens, kale, dino kale, red Russian kale and rainbow chard, the children continued to tear and cut the greens, of course with some questions and comments along the way.

After delivering their chopped up greens and eggs (which they cracked in a bowl themselves) to Chef Alyssa, the children waited expectantly as she blended the greens with Parmesan cheese, olive oil and garlic, discussing each ingredient as she added it to the blender. Between discussions of ingredients, colors, smells, health benefits and texture, the students engaged all of their senses and gained confidence in their cooking skills, ending the class with a resounding "Bon Appetit!" as they heartily dug into their freshly-made dish. 

I would have never believed it, if I hadn't seen for myself."  Adrienne Ryherd.

Have a question?