After-school program teaches cooking basics

Johnny Morgan  |  3/29/2018 7:36:10 PM

(03/29/18) METAIRIE, La. — Two 4-H volunteers using the Ochsner Health System Cooking-up Healthy Options and Portions (CHOP) program are teaching basic culinary skills and nutrition to 21 students in Jefferson Parish.

Supported by a grant from the Humana Foundation, CHOP program partners include the AgCenter, the John Besh Foundation and the Jefferson Parish School System.

The students learn to make various recipes with the help of the volunteers, said LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Heather Egger.

At a recent meeting, the students were taught the proper way to cut vegetables such as cucumbers, carrots and bell peppers.

Karan White, whose daughter Julia is one of the students, has nothing but praise for the program.

“I think the program is just great because my daughter has learned so much and has been involved for three years,” White said. “She has been in cooking contests where she has won three first-place ribbons.”

White said her daughter, who is in fifth grade, wants to be a chef when she grows up, and she feels this program is giving her a good head start.

Julia said she likes the program because she gets to learn new things and try new foods.

The class uses a workbook with a number of recipes they can make during the classes and at home.

As a recent session got underway, the students were given “grape-cicles,” which were frozen grapes on skewers. After enjoying the unusual but delicious treat, the students were allowed to make their own versions.

In addition to learning culinary skills, the students also get lessons on budgeting, portion control and the importance of reading food labels. Ochsner provides boxes that contain all the supplies necessary to teach the program.

Egger said the current AgCenter-led class began in October and will end in April. During the program, the students attend nine meetings, which last two hours each.

“While in the program, the students learn knife skills and safety, food safety, proper measuring and calculations, meal planning, boiling, simmering, sautéing and baking,” she said.

AgCenter healthy living expert Jessica Stroope wants to see children change their attitude about food.

“What we’ve found is children don’t like to be told what to eat, but if they are involved in the food preparation, they are more likely to eat it,” Stroope said.

Stroope said the CHOP program is just one of many nutrition programs 4-H has in parishes around the state.

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Debbie Gissel, of Jefferson Parish, prepares to hand out “grape-cicles” before the Cooking-Up Healthy Options and Portions (CHOP) program begins. Gissel, a volunteer in the program sponsored by Louisiana 4-H and the Ochsner Health System, teaches students healthy eating habits. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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Julia White, a fifth-grade student attending the Cooking-Up Healthy Options and Portions (CHOP) program, makes “grape-cicles” with other 4-H’ers in the healthy eating program. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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Jefferson Parish 4-H’ers in the Cooking-Up Healthy Options and Portions (CHOP) program prepare ingredients for a meal they prepared as part of a training session to help them learn healthy eating habits. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

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