“Could I have a little bit more, please?”
This is not a starving child in a Dickens novel but a student asking for an extra portion of the roasted vegetables he and fellow students have prepared in the Cook It. Try It. Like It! after-school program at Mission Hill elementary school.
The program, which focuses on tasty, nutritious and easy recipes, could change the way students eat now and for the rest of their lives as they try new ingredients and ways to cook and share them with their families.
“It’s a fun experience. I like all the tasty meals and learning stuff. It’s cool to be able to make new foods with new stuff and seasonings,” said Nathaniel Pelosof, Grade 6. “I learned a new way to sharpen knives and that having a good knife is important for cooking. I try most of the things we do here at home, and I look forward to the program.”
Jasmin Wright, program coordinator, gardener, local food security promoter and cook, loves sharing her enthusiasm with the students.
“It’s a way to help the students learn that healthy choices can be delicious and that cooking is fun. It fosters a good relationship with food and some of the students try new things or things they thought they didn’t like and find out that they really do like them,” she said.
“I like to see that big smile when they find a new favourite and learn new things.”
So far, the students, in Grades 4 to 6, have made quesadillas and fresh salsa, granola, fruit parfaits and mini pizzas, and they are working on roasted, seasoned vegetables and fruit smoothies. They are learning preparation techniques and proper use of kitchen tools and appliances.
“I really like to cook. I cook at home,” said MacKenzie Rawlins, Grade 4. “I learned a new way to make granola and a different way to do smoothies. I like it that we can meet people in the school that we don’t know. This is a great opportunity and we’re the first school to try it. Other schools should try this.”
Other students agree.
“I cook with my grandma a lot and it’s fun to learn new things. I like learning more about cooking,” said Brooklyn Wright, Grade 4.
Each session also includes a short section on nutrition. Students were surprised to learn about the sugar content of beverages that many of them drink regularly. For example, one popular soft drink has 70 grams of sugar, which was demonstrated by sugar cubes to show how much each beverage contained. They thought that it would be better to make their own smoothies because they knew what was in them, and save the sugary beverages for sometimes use, as they had learned about always food, necessary for good health, and sometimes food, occasional additions to a healthy diet.
There were lots of questions, with some of the students deciding to do research on what they had heard about caffeine consumption stunting growth in young people.
“I’m delighted to see the students have the opportunity to cook and learn about food and see their enthusiasm and interest and bring the samples and recipes home to their families,” said volunteer Donna Antonishak, retired community nutritionist.
Cook It. Try It. Like It! was developed in Kamloops as an after school program by the school district and the city. The program is also in Vernon at Ellison Elementary School and with community agencies in Lumby Vernon and Armstrong. It is funded by a grant from the First West Foundation through the Food Action Society.
“I hope we will get funding to run the program again. I think there’s potential for it to continue,” said Linda Boyd, community nutritionist with Interior Health and vice-chair of the Food Action Society.
“The kids are very interested and like experimenting with the different food and learning more about food and where our food comes from. They do related activities. When they used cilantro to make salsa, they planted a cilantro seed to grow their own cilantro at home. The response from parents and students has been very positive,” she said.
Black Bean Quesadilla
1/2 cup canned black beans drained and rinsed
Half a cup of cheddar cheese (grated)
4 whole grain tortillas (10-inch size)
1 red pepper (chopped)
2 green onions (chopped)
1/2 tsp. dry cilantro (or 2 Tbsp. fresh, chopped)
Preheat oven to 350 F
Assemble all ingredients on one half of each tortilla and then fold over the other half to cover the ingredients inside. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes or until golden and slightly crispy. Serve with salsa and low-fat sour cream. Makes four servings.