Local 4-H Kids Up Their Culinary Skills

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“I’ve never even seen parsnips before!” These are the words of one captivated seven-year-old as she painstakingly peels a handful of root vegetables set out before her on a cutting board. Like her three other classmates, this budding chef is enrolled in the “Clover Kids” cooking club sponsored by 4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, with 230,000 members in Florida and 6.5 million across the country.

Edible Orlando’s Kendra Lott, who last year completed the UF/IFAS Master Food and Nutrition Volunteer Program so she could begin sharing culinary skills and tips for healthy eating with Seminole County residents, teaches hands-on cooking classes to kids in the Seminole 4-H program (description below). On the night I join her she is guiding the group of Clovers (5-8 year olds) through a cream of root vegetable soup provided by Chef Hari Pulapaka of Cress Restaurant in Deland.

root veggie soup

fresh rosemary and cream flavor the turnips, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips simmering in this simple, satisfying soup

With the assistance of Kendra and two teen helpers, the girls are giddily peeling, chopping, measuring and stirring a hearty dish they’ll enjoy together at the end their 90-minute class.

“4-H’s motto ‘Learning By Doing’ really sums up the experience the girls have had in this class,” Lott says. “We’ve made stir fry with a rainbow of veggies and baked cookies using fruits as a natural sweetener. Each time I try to introduce ingredients that the girls may not be accustomed to, like shitake mushrooms or fresh ginger. They’ve really begun to get the message that healthy food tastes good and is not difficult to prepare, and this lays the groundwork for them to make healthier choices. Plus, it’s a lot of fun learning how to cook.”

That was evident judging by the smiles and laughter that filled the room. Everyone happily pitched in (even with cleaning!) before sitting down to enjoy the fruits of their labor.  The verdict: delicious!

Seminole County 4-H, a part of Florida 4-H, is the youth development program of Florida Cooperative Extension, a part of the University of Florida IFAS. Seminole County 4-H provides educational programming to youth 5-18 years of age, emphasizing healthy lifestyles, leadership and workforce developments skills. The 4-H Youth Development Program uses a learn-by-doing approach and caring adults to help youth gain the knowledge and life skills they need to be productive, responsible citizens. To achieve its mission, 4-H accesses the expertise and resources of the University of Florida and a nationwide network of Cooperative Extension Service faculty, staff and volunteers. Florida 4-H aspires to be the leading youth development program that creates positive change in youth, families, and communities. For more information about participating in 4-H as a member or volunteer, please visit http://florida4h.org/.

Special thanks to Adrienne Iannone at Whole Foods Market Winter Park and to Bridgete McKenna with the UF/IFAS Extension 4-H Youth Development Program, Seminole County 4-H.

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