From never even cracking an egg to preparing whole meals by themselves, a group of 20 students provided a mix of experience for the first “Yes I Can Cook” class at the Highland Area Christian Service Ministry (HACSM) food pantry.
Located at 900 Chestnut St., HACSM conducted its first class children ages 8-14 years old on June 14.
HACSM Executive Director Diane Williams said that kids, especially in summer when they are often left to fend for themselves, eat poorly — or not at all — not because the food is not available to them, but because someone has to make it first.
“Our statistics show that there are food in homes, but it is not being prepared,” Williams said.
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Learning this spurred the inspiration for the HACSM to start teaching the summer class.
The class focuses on teaching youngsters about the basics of preparing nutritious meals. Food pantry clients, as well as children from the community at large, can join the class. Williams said idea was so popular that the class filled up within the first few days it was advertised. So, they are planning to hold an additional class specifically for food pantry clients who did not get a chance to sign-up.
In the class last week, students appeared with their parents, but once they had a glimpse of the tables scattered with miscellaneous cooking wear, they eagerly ran over to claim their spots. Some participants mischievously eyed hot skillets, while they waved black plastic spatulas in the air, waiting in anticipation for the class to start.
The teacher, Susanne Meyer, a retired English teacher at Highland High School, began the day with a quick lesson on balanced and nutritious meal portioning. She also asked her students what foods made up the main food groups.
Many knew the right things to say, though some students were a little mischievous with their answers.
“Bugs,” one student shouted when Meyer asked what food was protein.
“Sugar,” was another answer for the “grain group.”
After her lesson was concluded, Meyer let the real fun begin.
The cooking started with preparing yogurt and fruit parfaits. When they were finished, many of the fancy fruit concoctions looked to be almost professional tier, with meticulously chopped strawberries and granola sprinkled atop the yogurt with special finesse.
Then the young chefs were given pieces of paper and were asked to design their “pièce de résistance” breakfast sandwich. Some were more classic, while others stood out with additions of pepper jack cheese, avocados, salsa and even a lone creation with glazed donuts for buns. While the students were designing their culinary treats, Meyer began to prepare the materials needed for the “hot” part of the breakfast.
Eggs were carefully passed out, and Meyer demonstrated how to crack them. Then it was the kids’ turn at it. Surprised faces of the more zealous egg crackers gasped, laughing as the slimy insides gushed out of the shells, through their fingers and into the bowls below. The more experienced students parted the shells with ease, spilling the contents without any trace of lingering shells.
Grabbing their forks, with some flourish, the cooks set to work whisking the contents of their bowls, adding well-chosen ingredients to their scramble mix — a little bit of cheese here, a little bit of ham there. Some kids were even brave enough to add some tomato or spinach.
The skillets soon sizzled as the students carefully pushed their mixtures around butter-lined pans.
“Mmm,” one chef said, savoring his creation.
“Oh, this is good,” said another.
One of the students, Anthony Beadle, was especially proud of his cooking and what he learned.
“It’s fun,” he said. “You can be creative and cook whatever you want, and then you could let other people try it, and they could like it, and they could cook it.”