Lee County 4-H Cooking Teams Earn Silver Medals at State Cooking Competition

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Across research, there is a positive association between cooking abilities in adolescents and better nutritional indicators. Providing youth with the environment to practice cooking techniques can influence their development of essential life skills and even allow them to contribute to family meal routines. What we see is that when youth are involved in meal preparation, they are more likely to consume the included healthy foods while also increasing their sense of confidence and self-efficacy. Lee County 4-H Youth Development and the Family and Consumer Sciences programs partner to create a space where youth have the opportunity to learn how to properly handle knives, demonstrate best practices for food safety, and learn how to combine flavors and textures that appeal to many senses.

This year Lee County 4-H had two youth teams compete at a State level competition where they put their practice into action during the Got to Be NC Festival on May 18th, 2024. The Dinah Gore 4-H Healthy Food Challenge is a contest that challenges a team of three to four 4-H members to create a dish that will serve three people using a predetermined local food ingredient, MyPlate food category (protein, grains, fruit & vegetable, and dairy), and items purchased from the “grocery store”. Once the secret key ingredient is revealed, the team has 40 minutes to prepare the dish, clean up, and prepare their presentation for the judges. The presentation, about their dish, includes its health benefits and the nutrients that the dish provides to the body.

This year competing were two teams that were formed out of previous 4-H cooking club offerings. Competing in the 11-13-year-old category for the first time this yearPepper Pros. was the Pepper Pros team consisting of 4-H members Emma Meaney, Evalyn Makarewicz, Makari Meyers, and Sam Fulcher (from left to right). This team turned their key local ingredient, ground pork, into street tacos. In combination with showcasing their cooking skills, the team had to present their nutrition knowledge on this protein food group. Competing against 10 other teams in their age category, the Pepper Pros placed 2nd and received a silver medal.

Our seasoned team, the Flavor Fighters, competed this year in an older 14-18 year age category having come off a victory last year in the 11-13 age category. From left to right, Paisley Kitchens, Brayden Shuey, and Brayden Varner competed against more teams and older competitors this year, yet still came out shining! Using the cooking skills they have been developing over the last year, they turned their key local ingredient, strawberries, into breakfast tacos with a strawberry sauce and presented their knowledge of the fruit & vegetable food group. Competing against 7 other teams in their age category, the Flavor Fighters placed 2nd and received a silver medal. The Flavor Fighters are eager to continue sharpening their skills to earn the chance next year to compete in the National 4-H Cooking Challenge at the Texas State Fair.

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