Teen Cuisine program cultivates cooking prowess among participants


A mini grant helped forge a new understanding of nutrition, with a splash of fun added for youthful participants.

The Patrick County Cooperative Extension was awarded the Teen Cuisine Cooking at Home – Mini Grant, which was designed to teach sixth to twelfth graders how to cook like experts at home.

Provided by the National 4-H Council, Walmart Foundation, Virginia 4-H and the Virginia Family Nutrition Program, the grant was made available to Virginia Cooperative Extension due to the current pandemic. Grant proceeds were tapped to fund and support family-based cooking and learning through remote education.

The local program was aimed at increasing skills to prepare foods and meals at home, and ultimately improving overall dietary quality.

Twenty local teens participated in the program where they learned skills that included how to read and follow recipes, cooking terms, safe use of knives, food safety and healthy nutrition.

The mini grant also provided funds for cooking and recipe kits.

Cooking kits contained a skillet, mixing bowl, can opener, spatula, glass baking dish, paring knife, dry measuring cup, measuring spoons, liquid measuring cups, food thermometer, cutting mat, rubber spatula, veggie brush, spiralizer, reusable plasticware, water bottle, tote bag, and more.

Recipe kits contained all the ingredients needed to prepare six healthy recipes, including main recipe items as well as oils, sugars, spices, fresh vegetables, fruits and other needed supplies.

Because in person programming was not allowed due to the pandemic, participants were provided with six virtual lessons and check-ins. They also were encouraged to cook with their families as a part of the program.

The program also provided a comprehensive nutrition education. It was presented in partnership between Patrick County Cooperative Extension Family and Nutrition Program Assistant, Teresa Rakes, Family and Consumer Science Agent, Terri Alt, and 4-H Youth Development Agent, Leigh Ann Hazelwood.

Based on evaluations of the program, a majority of teen participants said that as a result of participating in the program, they learned why it is important to eat a healthy diet, eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

While not all participants noted a change in the amount of soda/soft drinks they consume, all reported drinking more water.  Teens also reported an increased understanding of knife safety, better measuring skills and the ability to read recipes. After the program, nearly all participants said that they plan to cook more.

One teen said that he had never really liked cooking before, but because of the Teen Cuisine Cooking at Home – Mini Grant program, he is now interested in cooking and planning meals and wants to be fully involved in planning what his family eats for dinner.