Healthy living is one of the national 4-H mission mandates, and here in Minnesota we are using the Chef for a Day program to get youth involved in eating more healthfully and gaining science and decision-making skills at the same time.
We know that eating habits are established early in life. Studies tell us that kids who are involved in meal preparation and cooking are better at making healthy food choices.
Beyond healthy diets, we also know that cooking programs can teach youth about doing science, by learning how to:
- follow directions
- understand food terminology
- predict the chemical reactions from mixing ingredients
Our Chef for a Day program starts with some basic nutrition and cooking skill safety, and provides a basic recipe for a stir-fry or a salad that uses terms like protein, liquid and vegetables. Youth teams craft their own variations on these dishes, recording their tweaks to the ingredients or cooking methods as they go. This method of thinking, problem solving and tinkering is the basis of all science research and engineering, and provides a foundation for food and cooking literacy.
Chef for a Day will culminate at the Minnesota State Fair in a cook-off for youth. Thousands of visitors to our 4-H building will be able to watch these demonstrations. Participants will be evaluated on their knowledge of safe food preparation, nutrition, meat preparation and importance of protein in the diet. The 2013 cook-off is a one-day event, but like everything in 4-H, future programming will be youth-driven, and could be expanded.
Are you using cooking as a way to teach healthy living, science or life skills? Can you share your ideas here? And please come and see us at the fair!
Extension educator & associate Extension professor, educational design & development
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