BATON ROUGE, La. – Members of the Louisiana 4-H Food and Fitness Board from throughout the state held their summer meeting in Baton Rouge July 15-17, where they were able to get some hands-on experience and career information from food industry representatives, said LSU AgCenter 4-H regional coordinator Lanette Hebert.
Among the fun and educational activities the group was involved in during their three days in the city were a tour of the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, a visit to Pennington Biomedical Research Center and time at Triumph Kitchen, Hebert said.
“While at Pennington, we had presentations on nutrition, how to give a proper food demonstration and also how to develop communication skills so we can give professional presentations and advocate for healthy living and our state 4-H program,” Hebert said.
While at the Food Incubator, those in the group who are interested in business learned the steps to producing a food product.
The 24 board members are charged with learning about nutrition and fitness and then planning outreach programs at the parish, regional and state levels, she said.
“We actually have four meetings throughout the year, with the ultimate goal being to put on a weekend camp in the spring,” Hebert said. “This year the camp will be held in March, which is National Nutrition Month, and we will be focusing on fitness and the family.”
Many of the board’s activities are funded through a $60,000 National 4-H Wal-Mart Foundation grant, Hebert said.
Erin “E.J.” Blanchard, an 11th-grade board member from Cecilia High School in St. Martin Parish, said this was a good opportunity to show the importance of good nutrition and keeping in shape.
“We teach the kids how important it is to eat healthy and to follow the guidelines of My Food Plate, which tells them about your servings and how much food you should have,” Blanchard said.
Kathy Landry, a volunteer leader from St. Mary Parish, said she got involved because her daughter was elected to the board last year and she didn’t want to just sit in the meetings and watch.
“I am a classroom teacher, so my job is to advise them, and I give presentations as I did yesterday to help them with their presentation skills,” Landry said.
Landry said her parish 4-H program has received part of the grant to offer after-school nutrition classes called Project Cook.
“It’s a small group of students who are selected to participate in the program,” she said. “They meet after school with a project leader and a 4-H agent, and they learn food preparation skills, food safety, nutrition and also fitness.”
During the trip, the members partnered with Triumph Kitchen, a nonprofit organization that works with at-risk youth, to teach them hospitality skills and place them in restaurants and the hospitality industry, Hebert said.
Triumph Kitchen president Sommer Wadsworth said the kitchen is a training facility for at-risk and inner-city youth ages 16-22.
“What we do is bring them in and train them in the hospitality industry for 12 weeks,” Wadsworth said. “And the last two weeks we provide job placement for them.”
Hebert said the 4-H board members are responsible for the nutrition and fitness efforts in their parishes and they develop the programs they feel will be most effective in their area.Johnny Morgan
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