Introduce a few teenagers to some healthy ingredients, show them how to safely prepare a tasty new recipe, sprinkle in some nutrition facts, throw in a dash of fun, and voila! — those teens are on their way to making better food choices.
The Teen Cuisine cooking program is one of the many ways that Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program and Virginia 4-H are helping low-income families make informed and healthy food choices on limited budgets. The curriculum focuses on food preparation and cooking, including the safe use of knives and the importance of hand-washing.
The 4-H’ers are involved from start to finish, from the initial recipe selection to food prep, cooking, and cleanup. “The kids learn how to prepare food on their own that they would not normally cook,” said LaSonya White, a former middle school family and consumer sciences teacher who regularly used the curriculum with her students in Newport News. “We’d make colorful coleslaw to introduce the kids to a variety of vegetables. They would scrunch up their faces, but after they tried what they had made, they absolutely loved it.”
Teen Cuisine reached more than 12,000 students in 2015 and made a major impact. Nearly three-quarters of participants indicated that they are making healthier food choices as a result of Teen Cuisine. Of that group, 78 percent reported eating more fruits and vegetables, 67 percent said they drink fewer soft drinks, and 61 percent reported eating less junk food.
This program received assistance from a Walmart Youth Voice – Youth Choice grant in support of 4-H Healthy Living programs.
“From introducing these 4-H members to new foods to educating them on healthy, inexpensive food preparation techniques they can use at home, the Teen Cuisine program is making a positive impact on the healthy behaviors of these youth that will hopefully last a lifetime,” said Tonya Price, 4-H Extension specialist.
High school teacher Katherine Morris supervises Doug Gibson, a ninth-grader at LIFES Academy, as he cuts broccoli for a chicken and vegetable stir-fry.