Jr. Chefs learn art of meal preparation | PostIndependent.com

Jr. Chefs learn art of meal preparation

Kelley Cox Post Independent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Sopris Elementary School students all had a hand in their lunch today, literally.

The entire school took part in the Cook for America Jr. Chef program Thursday and continuing this morning. They will top it off with a spaghetti lunch, complete with vegetable marinara sauce prepared with the help of the students themselves.

Each class took turns during 15-minute segments Thursday slicing and dicing squash, onions, celery, peppers, carrots and other vegetables to make the sauce.

The students also learned a few things about what a chef does, how to be safe in the kitchen, the importance of teamwork in preparing a meal for large groups, and healthy eating habits.

“We do a lot of work with schools looking for ways to make their lunchrooms more healthy,” said Chef Andrea Martin, co-founder of the New York-based Cook for America.

“We created this program to give the kids a chance to be involved,” she said. “If kids don’t participate directly they’re less likely to eat the food. This gets the kids engaged, so that they’re actually a part of it.”

Cook for America is the same organization that brought the Culinary Boot Camp to local schools last summer. The program helps school lunchroom staffs learn about healthier ways to cook cafeteria meals.

As an extension of that work, Roaring Fork School District Food Services Director Michelle Hammond arranged to have the Jr. Chef program offered as well.

In addition to Sopris Elementary, students at Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale participated in the program earlier this week. Other district schools may also take part in future years, Hammond said.

Today’s culinary lesson at Sopris will include more of an academic focus, Martin said.

“We’ll talk about the different parts of the plant you can eat, and where food comes from,” she said.

Each of the primary academic areas are covered as well, with reading and writing assignments around the topic of food, recipes and cooking, and math lessons about how to measure ingredients.

When it came to the question of what to do with the unused food scraps, the Sopris kids were right on top of it – compost!

That’s because the school, under the direction of teacher Mark Browning, has been learning about composting at the neighboring Mountain Valley Developmental Services greenhouse this year. Students have also been conducting science experiments about how plants grow in different types of soil.

Mary Benson’s second-grade class was one of the many that arrived for the food-prep session Thursday in their newly made chefs hats.

“I think this is wonderful, the kids are learning so many different things through this,” Benson said. “And it’s really important for the students to be able to help and for the whole school to be part of something we all share in.”

Parent volunteer Tara Kennedy said when she had lunch with her fourth-grader in the cafeteria all the kids were still talking about the experience.

“Actually, I’m learning a lot myself about how to stay focused in the kitchen, and how to cook with my own children,” Kennedy said. “I just love watching all the kids working together.”


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