HOLLYWOOD — Hungry Hollywood youth learned safe cooking techniques and the value of nutritious diets during a six-week youth chef program offered in the Community Culture kitchen on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
A collaboration between the Health Department, Boys & Girls Club and Community Culture Department, it is designed for kids who do not want to participate in afterschool sports. The budding chefs dished out rave reviews for the pilot program.
“We have been doing cooking programs with the seniors and the preschool,” said Suzanne Davis, Allied Health Program manager. “Here, we showcase Seminole chefs and the kids are really engaged.”
Guest chefs, all who have graduated culinary school, cook side by side with the youth during the program. Chefs include Emma Cypress, Jimmy Osceola, Jennifer Billie and Lorraine Posada.
Spaghetti with chicken meatballs and zucchini was on the March 15 menu created by chef Cypress, who graduated in 2008 from Johnson & Wales University with a bachelor’s degree in culinary nutrition.
“I like to integrate cooking class with nutrition so they know that healthy meals are beneficial for their health,” said Cypress, who works at the Miccosukee Wellness Center. “I want the kids to know food can be medicine.”
According to dietary guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Agriculture, healthy eating is one of the best ways to avoid chronic diseases like heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. The guidelines recommend eating plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat free or low fat dairy, lean protein and oils.
The program coincided with National Nutrition Month, created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to emphasize healthy eating and fitness.
“About three-fourths of the population is not meeting the recommendations for vegetables, fruits, dairy and oils,” said Jessica Crandall, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokeswoman. “Small, positive changes add up over time. Start by making tweaks to your diet like adding leafy greens to smoothies or eating an apple with lunch. Small shifts in food choices can make a long-term difference in finding a healthy eating pattern that works for you.”
Students learned cooking often requires math. They read recipe ingredients for Cypress to add to a mixing bowl. Because she needed to double the recipe, kids did the math and let her how much to add.
The cooking class also touched on science, as Cypress explained that chicken contains salmonella bacteria and must be cooked to 165 degrees to prevent salmonella poisoning.
“It’s really cool to have Seminole chefs teaching,” Davis said. “They add tradition and cultural information to the class.”
When the meat mixture was complete, Cypress divided it into small bowls so each child could form meatballs.
“It’s just like playing with playdoh but it’s more gooey,” said Jayla Billie, 6. “And it’s food.”
The meatballs, zucchini, pasta and sauce were cooked, served and enjoyed.
Because of the number of returning kids each week, Davis considers the program a success.
“The kids are enjoying the hands-on lesson,” she said. “We have some good partners who make it interesting, fun and still informative.”