Food Smart Families grant funds youth activities

Richard Bogren  |  12/5/2017 3:41:36 PM

(12/01/17) LULING, La. — Boys and girls gathered in the kitchen at New Life Community Church in Luling, Louisiana, to begin making their own personal pizzas. The 4-H’ers had chosen the night’s menu during their previous meeting.

The 4-H’ers are members of the St. Charles Parish 4-H CHEF Club. CHEF is an acronym for Cooking, Healthy Eating and Fitness.

In its fourth year in the parish, the club meets monthly to teach the members about nutritious cooking, healthful eating and fun fitness and is led by volunteer leader Pamela Petit, of Luling.

“The church provides the meeting room and kitchen,” said St. Charles Parish LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Kali Zammit. The CHEF club is one of several Louisiana 4-H activities funded by a grant from UnitedHealthcare.

4-H’er Madelyn Williams, from Bayou Gauche, started as a club member and now participates as a Junior Leader.

“I’ve enjoyed learning to cook — different ways and different recipes,” she said. “Being able to make something is the most fun part.”

The November meeting was the club’s second of the year. In October, they made smoothies, and future menus will be up to the members, Zammit said.

“Youth voice is a major component of the program as a means of encouraging youth to be actively involved in creating a healthier lifestyle,” she said.

Later in the year, the 4-H’ers will not only prepare a dish during a meeting but also take home enough ingredients to make the dish for their families.

“The kids enjoy what they cook,” Zammit said. “They go home to cook for their families.”

Lindsey Tullier, of Luling, was at the club meeting with her two sons, David, 12, and Nathan, 9.

“They come home and want to participate in the kitchen,” Tullier said. “They show me what they’ve learned.

“Now they want to help me. They say they’re my sous chefs,” she said.

The Food Smart Families grant is provided by UnitedHealthcare in partnership with the National 4-H Council to address food insecurity and obesity through healthy living programming in targeted states, said Jessica Stroope, the healthy living extension associate in the AgCenter 4-H Youth Development department.

Louisiana, one of nine states selected for the grant, received $60,000 for this school year, Stroope said.

One aspect of the grant is food budgeting and nutrition education by encouraging 4‑H’ers to promote healthy choices among peers and family members. Other activities include food projects such as gardening and cooking.

“We want youth to learn they can eat healthy on a budget,” Stroope said.

In addition to St. Charles Parish, the grant supports 4-H projects or clubs in St. Mary, Lafayette and Orleans parishes. It also provides funding for the state 4-H Food and Fitness leadership board.

In St. Mary Parish, the grant is being used to start school garden clubs at two elementary schools, said area nutrition agent Jessica Randazzo.

“The goal is to teach the students how they can eat healthy on a budget by growing the produce themselves,” Randazzo said.

The program is being offered to third- through fifth-graders, who are guided through the planting process and then take over the daily care of the plants.

“It has been fun to watch the students’ excitement when they try a new vegetable that they’ve nurtured from a seed,” Randazzo said. “This year, we are growing Swiss chard, cabbage and carrots in addition to the fruit trees that were planted last year.”

Eight elementary and middle schools and one high school are participating in the school garden program in Lafayette Parish, said 4-H agent Charles Hebert. About 1,500 students are involved.

Since the 2009-2010 school year, Lafayette schools have been using the gardens as part of the school curriculum to augment and complement traditional classroom studies and teach gardening basics, Hebert said.

The Food Smart Families program will begin in Orleans Parish in January.

The state Food and Fitness Board, composed of teen leaders from across the state, presented a Teen Health Advocate Training in September in Woodworth, Louisiana.

“4-H’ers on the board taught easily reproducible lessons about nutrition, food waste, physical activity and cooking to their peers,” Stroope said.

The board will meet twice more this year to plan parish and regional healthy living programming as well as receive training to further their own skills, knowledge and leadership development, she said.

FSF nathan tullier.JPG thumbnail

Nathan Tullier, 9, works on his menu during a 4-H CHEF Club meeting in Luling, Louisiana. Photo by Rick Bogren/LSU AgCenter

FSF Madelyn Williams jr leader.JPG thumbnail

Madelyn Williams, a 4-H junior leader, prepares ingredients during a 4-H CHEF Club meeting in Luling, Louisiana. Photo by Rick Bogren/LSU AgCenter

FSF Pamela Petit volunteer.JPG thumbnail

Volunteer leader Pamela Petit gives instructions to 4-H’ers at the beginning of a 4-H CHEF Club meeting in Luling, Louisiana. Photo by Rick Bogren/LSU AgCenter

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