Lee County 4-H Flavor Fighters
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Teaching kids how to cook is one way to create a healthy foundation for their futures. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, many life skills can be taught through engagement in the kitchen such as nutrition basics, food safety, and culinary techniques that build upon their mathematics, science, literacy, and fine motor skills. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics included age-appropriate suggested kitchen activities starting at age 2 that can allow for interest and excitement over healthy foods to help them grow healthy habits as they age.
Looking at the statistics from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, children/youth are not reaching the recommended intake ranges for fruits and vegetables while they are exceeding the recommended intake of added sugars, saturated fats, and sodium. What we see across research is that when children are involved in meal preparation at home, they are more likely to consume the included healthy foods while also increasing their sense of confidence and self-efficacy. What used to be an integral part of the family dynamic, home-prepared meal times are now shifting into becoming a time in the past.
What the Lee County 4-H Cooking Club aims to do is empower youth in the kitchen to where they are taking control of their food and health. Kicking off 2023, Cupid’s in the Kitchen was offered to youth who were interested in growing their cooking skills in hopes that they would feel confident to prepare their families a meal on Valentine’s Day. Bringing together youth in the kitchen, we saw them connect through their food preferences, learned cooking skills, and maybe some shared dance moves. From the 6-week program, they were able to practice safe knife skills, culinary practices, and building nutritious meals.
The learning did not stop here, from this group, 5 4-H’ers have continued developing their skills in preparation to compete against other 4-H youth across the state. On May 20th, the team, known as The Flavor Fighters, will be competing at the Dinah Gore 4-H Healthy Food Challenge that is being hosted at the Got to Be NC Festival. Competing in the 11-13-year-old age group, the Lee County Flavor Fighters will go up against 4 other teams, testing their strengths in safe food preparation, nutrition knowledge of the MyPlate food groups, and presentation skills. This competition team has gone through 6 additional training sessions to edify their meal preparation techniques. Session after session, they continued to amaze us with the information they absorbed being put into action.
From the beginning, the youth have exhibited a great deal of talent in the kitchen due to their eagerness and attention when learning. We have seen the youth properly handle knives to chop and cut fruits and vegetables, show proper safe food handling when working with raw meats to prevent cross-contamination, combining flavors and textures while continuously encouraging one another in their capabilities. When fresh fruits and vegetables were readily available for them to use, they let their creativity flow and their taste buds grow. Why not add broccoli to mac and cheese, zucchini to enchiladas, and snap peas to tacos?
Stay tuned to see how the Lee County 4-H Flavor Fighters fought for their healthy recipe!
N.C. Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on nutrition, health, food preservation, and food safety in Lee County please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Ashley Szilvay. For more information on how to involve your youth in 4-H please contact the 4-H Agent, Pamela Kerley. Both can be reached at 919.775.5624