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Teaching Nutrition & Cooking Skills to Youth. Jennifer Bowen Extension Agent/4-H Prince Edward County jebowen1@vt.edu. Patsy Pelland Extension Agent/FCS Prince Edward County ppelland@vt.edu. Ruth Wallace Extension Agent/4-H Buckingham County ruwallac@vt.edu.

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Teaching Nutrition & Cooking Skills to Youth

Jennifer Bowen

Extension Agent/4-H

Prince Edward County


Patsy Pelland

Extension Agent/FCS

Prince Edward County


Ruth Wallace

Extension Agent/4-H

Buckingham County


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Why are these skills important?

  • Research shows that …

    • Eating habits are adopted early in life and carry through to adulthood

    • Children are more likely to try new foods if involved in preparing them

    • Cooking skills and cooking literacy are declining with each generation

    • Only 40% of youth ages 10 – 17 can cook a spaghetti dinner

    • The lack of cooking skills may be contributing to the nation’s growing obesity rate

Research from the University of North Texas, the Agricultural Research Service Children’s Nutrition Research Center, and SDA

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Working with ages 5-8 (k-3)

  • Nuts about Nutrition

  • 3rd Grade Nutrition Program

  • Delightful Dinners

  • Food Fundamentals

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Nuts about Nutrition

  • 3 week series

  • Week 1

    • Learn about the pyramid & serving sizes

    • Identify which foods go in which group

    • Focus on a different food group each day

  • Week 2

    • Identify which foods go in which group

    • How to read food labels

  • Week 3

    • Food Safety

    • Grocery Store Field Trip

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Nuts About Nutrition

  • Simple Food Preparation each day including …

    • English Muffin Pizzas

    • Making Pretzels

    • Ants on a Log

    • Frozen Yogurt Sundays

    • GORP

    • Banana Splits

    • Homemade Stromboli

    • Sunshine Shakes

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3rd Grade nutrition program

  • Four easy lessons

    • 45 minutes each

    • hands-on activities

  • Lesson 1 – My Pyramid

  • Lesson 2 – Physical Activity

  • Lesson 3 – Fruits and Vegetables

  • Lesson 4 – Sugar Content of Drinks

  • Monthly Activity Calendar

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Delightful Dinners

  • A Parent/Child cooking class

    • Instruction

      • My Pyramid

      • Table Setting

      • Manners

      • Hand Washing

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Delightful Dinners

  • Cooking

    • Kid-friendly recipes (chicken fingers, pizza, pasta salad, etc.)

    • Basic skills

      • Measuring liquid and dry ingredients

      • Combining ingredients

      • Basic food safety

      • Following directions

      • Parents join children after work

  • Family Meal Time

    • Children set table and serve family members

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Food FundamentalsIn School Kindergarten program

  • Session 1: Introduction to the Food Guide Pyramid

  • Children learn basics of MyPyramid and practice identifying in

  • which section foods belong

  • Session 2: Fruits and Vegetables Day

    • Children make a class chart of fruits and vegetables. Throughout the week the children are encouraged to eat fruits and veggies. The

    • children play a game identifying fruits and vegetables from taste.

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  • Session 3: How Our Diet Fits Into the Pyramid

  • Children will draw pictures of the foods they ate for breakfast, lunch or dinner. They place these foods where they belong on a large paper pyramid.

  • Session 4: Review of the Pyramid

  • Food Pyramid Hunt

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Working with ages 9-13

  • After-School Programs

    • Fun With Foods

    • Beef It Up

    • Project NIFTY

    • 4-H After-School (Middle School Unit)

  • Summer Programs

    • Simply Scrumptious

    • Fit & Fun in the Sun

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Fun With Foods

  • Focus on learning basic cooking skills

    • Measuring dry and liquid ingredients

    • Measuring shortening, peanut butter

    • Sautéing, browning, caramelizing

    • Folding, mixing, combining

    • Chopping, dicing

    • Using a microwave, blender, food thermometer

    • Kneading

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Fun With Foods

  • Focus on Learning Basic Life Skills

    • Learning to read and follow directions

    • Working together

    • Sharing

    • Cleaning up after oneself

    • Time and resource management

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Fun With Foods

  • Focus on Food Safety

    • Handling raw meat

    • Cooking with raw eggs

    • Appropriate cooking temperatures for meats (cooking meat until done)

    • Safety around knives, stovetop, grills, etc.

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Fun With Foods

  • Focus on Nutrition

    • Identifying the food group each major ingredient comes from

    • Identifying nutritional value of each of these major ingredients

    • Planning what other dishes could be served to complete the meal

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Beef it Up

  • Similar to Fun With Foods, but emphasizing beef dishes

  • Focus on …

    • Cuts of meat

    • Various cooking methods

    • Which cooking methods best suit which cuts

    • Food safety

    • Nutrition

    • Cooking skills and life skills

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4-H After-School

  • Part of Structured After-School Program at Middle School

  • Lesson 1 - Food Safety & Cooking

  • Lesson 2 – Vitamins, Minerals, and Phytonutrients; Made Kabobs

  • Lesson 3 - Eggs and Protein; Made Omelets

  • Lesson 4 – Calcium; Made Sunshine Shakes and Peanut Butter Crackers dipped in Chocolate

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Project Nifty (Nutrition, self Image, & Fitness tools for Youth)

  • How do nutrition, self image, and fitness all contribute to being healthy?

  • Day 1 – My Pyramid; Make Yogurt Sundaes

  • Day 2 – Label Reading; Make Cinnamon Snack Mix

  • Day 3 – Smart Image; Make Pizza Crackers

  • Day 4 – Smart Activities; Make Deviled Eggs

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Fit & Fun in the Sun

  • Focus on Benefits of Physical Activity, Nutrition, and Cooking

  • Lesson 1 – What is Physical Activity? Benefits of Physical Activity

  • Lesson 2 – My Pyramid

  • Lesson 3 – Cooking Skills

  • Lesson 4 – Bag Lunches, Food Safety on the Go, Well Balanced Diet

  • Lesson 5 – Fast Food, Fat & Sugar Contents of Foods, Serving Sizes

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Fit & Fun in the sun

  • Games & Crafts

  • Made Pizza, Blackberry or Peach Cobbler, tacos (in teams of 4-6 youth with an older teen or adult helper)

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Simply scrumptious

  • Targets academics in addition to cooking and nutrition

  • Nutrition Skills

    • Review of My Pyramid

    • Reading labels

    • Menu preparation 

  • Food Preparation Skills

    • Reading a recipe and following directions

    • Doubling/halving a recipe

    • Learning proper cooking techniques

    • Learning safe food handling practices

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What’s Next for Us?

  • Cooking with Cloverbuds

  • Advanced skills workshops

  • Effective evaluations of knowledge and life skills gains

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Teaching Nutrition and Cooking Skills to youth

  • Lessons can be stand alone or as part of a unit

  • The hands-on approach is best

  • When teaching cooking skills, the MOST IMPORTANT lesson is on how to read a recipe and follow it!

  • Kids will learn better when taught the skills and then “turned loose” to use those skills in the recipe (with supervision of course)

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Virginia Cooperative Extension Curriculum Resources

  • Family Nutrition Program (FNP) lessons*

    * For low-income youth only; A FNP educator may be able to come to your location to teach youth or may train you to use the curriculum

  • Healthy Weights for Healthy Kids

  • Nourishing Children with Books

  • Childcare Provider Kits on Grains and Physical Activity

  • Suppers Made Simple

  • Stepping Up to the Plate

    Computer based curriculum for ages 9-13

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Teaching Nutrition and Cooking Skills to youth

  • Group Discussion

    • Please share your experiences with after-school programs in this area.

    • What challenges/triumphs have you encountered teaching nutrition and/or cooking skills?

    • Do you have additional ideas/comments to share?