Last week a group of ten teens in the Arlington foster care system attended a week-long Cooking Matters for Teens course taught by program assistant Ellen Mathis and extension agent Jennifer Abel. Each day participants learned about healthy eating and prepared two-three recipes. Healthy recipe selections included turkey tacos, sweet potato fries, baked mozzarella sticks, fruit salad, mango salsa, fruit and yogurt parfaits with homemade granola, and many others. On the last day of the course, the teens had honed their cooking skills to such a degree that they were divided into teams with a captain for each team and assigned one of three recipes to prepare on their own with minimal guidance from the instructors. Teams prepared baked French fires, flaked baked chicken, and fruit smoothies.
Upon completion all participants received a textbook with recipes, certificate, and aprons and potholders. The teens expressed a great deal of enthusiasm for the course and said that it inspired them to do more cooking on their own and for their families. One teen even said that she wants to volunteer with VCE at other nutrition classes in the fall.
The Cooking Matters program was created Share Our Strength, a national anti-hunger organization, and provides curricula and resources for healthy cooking and nutrition programs for kids, adults, teens, families, and child care providers.