Deborah M. Bairnsfather, Van Osdell, Mary Ann | 12/19/2007 3:54:27 AM
News Release Distributed 12/12/07
Although not yet graduated from high school, Lauren Ogles said she started her career in the eighth grade.
How? “4-H helped me get ready,” she said.
Ogles, who wants to be a chef, has started Get Cooking Kid, a workshop she developed through 4-H to show fourth through sixth graders that cooking is fun and something they can do. Each workshop also focuses on good nutrition.
Ogles, a West Monroe High School senior and 4-H member, participated in a recent Nutrition Connections Summit held at the LSU AgCenter Macon Ridge Research Station in Winnsboro.
Because many programs offered by a variety of agencies are powerful tools to address poor diet and inactivity, the LSU AgCenter coordinated efforts to gather state and regional nutrition and health organizations for the summit.
Ogles was one of two youths in the group.
“The one thing I have to think about when I cook is good nutrition,” she said, explaining her workshop for kids. “I want to show others that 4-H can show you how to focus on things to help you choose a career.”
Her workshop starts with information about the Food Guide Pyramid, food labels, sugar and fat content, and portion control along with food and kitchen safety.
Everyone is always shocked over the hand-washing demonstration, Ogles said. “They think they do a good job washing their hands until they see it under the special light,” she said. “Then they see what they missed. It is really gross.”
After the informational part of the workshop, the cooking begins. Children visit five stations to make easy snacks that can be prepared with little or no parental supervision. Then it is time to eat what they’ve made.
Ogles charges $10 to cover the cost of the food, materials, supplies and a souvenir cloth apron. Participants make their own chef hats. She does not do the workshop for profit.
“If we have any money left over, we buy door prizes like a waffle iron or blender,” she said.
Ogles has presented the workshop to 100 elementary 4-H’ers in three parishes over the past two years. The workshop has now expanded, and she is training others how to give it.
Ogles has presented “how-to” training workshop to parish, state and national groups, including when she was the Louisiana delegate to the John Deere Leaders Academy in Washington, D.C., in 2006 and the National 4-H Congress in March, 2007.
She has been asked to present the how to workshop at the National Afterschool Association Conference next March.
After high school, Ogles plans to attend the John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University. She met Folse at a taping of his PBS show, “A Taste of Louisiana.”
She also has been featured on Emeril Lagasse’s Food Network show after submitting her Tex-Mex chicken taco soup recipe to a Cook with Your Kids contest. A crew came to her house to film her making the dish, and she went to Orlando, Fla., to be on the show.
She also appears monthly on a KTVE-TV cooking segment and has her own catering service for wedding showers.
“Lauren has taken her 4-H knowledge to another level,” said Debbie Bairnsfarther, LSU AgCenter regional coordinator for 4-H. “She has leadership and citizenship skills. She will never stop trying to make a difference.”
Ogles takes the 4-H pledge very seriously. “The pledge states that I should use my hands for greater service,” she said. “I do this through different community service projects.”
During the past year she logged more than 180 community service hours to earn the Silver Medal in the President's Volunteer Service Program. In 2004 she was the local honoree for the Prudential Spirit of the Community award and was in the top 10 percent nationally.
Besides the cooking project, Ogles organized For the Love of Reading Challenge in which 4-H’ers donated more than 4,000 books and magazines to Ronald McDonald House, YWCA Battered Women's Shelter and local hospitals. The Two Can Make a Difference project, which she also organized parishwide, brought in more than 400 cans of cat and dog food for local animal shelters.
Ogles said she once wanted to be an air traffic controller like her father or a veterinarian. She chose cooking because “it is something fun to do, and I can express myself through what I create. Plus, it is different like me.”
Contact: Debbie Bairnsfather at (318) 435-2903, or firstname.lastname@example.org
Writer: Mary Ann Van Osdell at (318) 741-7430, ext. 1104, or email@example.com