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High school students serve up meals at home through adapted cooking class

two students chopping and peeling vegetables

Farmers Market Salsa. Butternut Apple Crisp. Cheesy Polenta Pie. Hungry yet?

These are some of the dishes served up this fall by students at Kalapuya High School in an adapted version of a cooking class offered through a partnership with Oregon State University Extension Service in Lane County and FOOD For Lane County. Extension provides weekly video resources, recipes and a detailed syllabus to guide students as they cook recipes at home.

In typical years, Kalapuya students work together in the classroom to make healthy and affordable meals using OSU Extension Food Hero recipes. But this year, it wasn’t clear whether Kalapuya would open on time in September due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In August, Jillian Drewes, coordinator of the Extension Family and Community Health Program (FCH)  in Lane County, and Molly Bullock, Kalapuya’s farm and nutrition educator, started planning how to provide the curriculum outside of school.

At Kalapuya, students learn in cohorts that rotate through six distinct interdisciplinary, thematic courses before matriculating to the senior cohort where students focus on their individual career path. The cooking class typically is featured in the sustainable agriculture cohort, which helps run Bethel Farm, a 3-acre farm attached to the school, which provides food to low-income families. This fall, Kalapuya expanded the class to serve two cohorts for each term.

“We’re a school that has a lot of freedom to do hands-on learning,” Molly says. “The students work on the farm and our cooking program is tied to that, so they get to a comprehensive look at sustainable agriculture. Our partnership with Extension is tremendous. When we connected five years ago, I was just floored by the resources they had to offer.”

This fall, Molly, Jillian and Lizzie McDougal, SNAP-Ed educational program assistant in Lane County, planned weekly culinary and nutrition topics to complement harvest updates from the farm. A fruit or vegetable is highlighted each week. Jillian and Lizzie determine the Food Hero options based on the main ingredient from the Bethel Farm.

Food Hero is a statewide initiative of the Oregon Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed) program and was developed by the Oregon State University Extension Service in English and Spanish. All the recipes are tested according to criteria, such as overall flavor, color and texture. Food Hero meals are low-cost and feature easy to find ingredients, easy to follow instructions, and minimal preparation time.

The Food Hero website has tutorials for many of its recipes, and Drewes recorded a couple of new videos for this fall. The students watch the video and go to Kalapuya each Wednesday to pick up a cooking kit that has everything they need to make the meal.

Molly says the remote cooking class is one of the only hands-on activities Kalapuya students have been able to participate in this fall. Every student enrolled in the school will have the opportunity to participate over the course of the school year.

“When we’re doing the class at school, students will each complete different parts of the recipe,” Molly says. “By doing it at home they get to make the whole dish from start to finish. Their families get to be involved. We’ve wanted to increase family programming, so this is a situational solution that has been exciting. I’ve had immense positive feedback from our teachers. I’ve had kids calling me and sending me pictures. It’s been going really well.”

This story originally appeared on the OSU Extension Service website.

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