Belle Valley students, parents learn to eat right, cook healthy

News-DemocratApril 28, 2013 

Belle Valley Middle School students learned how to eat right and cook a healthy breakfast during a nutritional class and cooking experience at Eckert's Country Store and Farms in Belleville.

The students, in fifth through eighth grade, had the opportunity to taste a variety of fruits and vegetables including sugar peas, green and red grapes, grapefruit, cauliflower and celery in the nutritional class lead by Sabine Vaughn.

"You really want to eat many different colors of fruits and vegetables," Vaughn told the students.

Eighth-grader Katie Wagner, 14, said strawberries were her favorite item she tasted and mushrooms were her least favorite. She tried a lime for the first time. "It's sour," she said.

Vaughn gave the students a homework assignment for the week to eat five different colored fruits and vegetables every day. "It makes you a healthy person," she told the students.

Vaughn plans to come to the school on Tuesday to see if the students completed their assignment. The students were provided a sheet where they could mark when they ate a fruit or vegetable that was blue/purple, green, white, yellow/orange or red.

In addition to the nutritional class, students participated in a cooking experience lead by Lana Shepak, a food and nutrition expert. She taught the students how to cook hearty egg burritos.

Before the cooking lesson began, Shepak talked to the students about what a healthy meal includes: fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains and dairy.

"This egg burrito has all the food groups in a hearty, healthy way," she said.

The students participated in every aspect of making the burrito from cracking the eggs to cutting the green onions to cooking the egg mixture.

Eighth-grader Royce Payne, 14, said making the burrito was fun and is something he can do at home. Classmate Braxton Chandler, 14, agreed. "It was really fun to make, and it also tasted very good," he said.

Seventh-grader Bryse Thompson, 13, said the egg burrito was "one of the best things I tasted in a while."

Every student who participated in the field trip to Eckert's last week was invited to a family nutritional cooking experience.

"I enjoyed the class a lot," said Theresa Moore, mother of fifth-grader Jamar Moore. "They taught us how to make stir fry and what foods are healthy for you to eat."

Parent Rochelle Payne, of Belleville, said the experience at Eckert's was "really neat. It was just fun for my son and me to do something together that we don't do -- cooking together in the kitchen," she said. "I'm so busy cooking; I'm not including my son."

Now, Payne said she plans to "definitely" include her son Royce, who's in the eighth-grade, when she cooks.

Rochelle Payne said spending just $10 on a meal was "not nearly as easy as I thought. You are spending way more than you have to on food," she said, noting Shepak suggested making homemade pasta sauce with fresh tomatoes rather than buying canned or jarred sauce.

"We are so excited to work with both parents and children in our community to share our enthusiasm about fruits, vegetables, healthy eating and dining together," said Angie Eckert, vice president of Eckert's.

Shepak said a $1,000 grant covered the cost of the nutritional and cooking classes for the Belle Valley students and their families. Eckert's was awarded one of 30 minigrants by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation, through an educational grant from Share Our Strength.

"I thought it was a great experience for the kids," Theresa Moore said.

Contact reporter Jamie Forsythe at 239-2562 or

Shepak also taught the parents key food shopping skills: buying fruits and vegetables on a limited budget, identifying whole grains, comparing unit prices and reading food labels. Theresa Moore said she enjoyed learning how to make a complete meal for $10 or less.

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