Local elementary students battle for culinary perfection

WFU’s Kids Cooking Coalition Competition set for April 26

Fifth graders at Cook Literacy Model School in Winston-Salem are preparing to bring their culinary best during the Kids Cooking Coalition Competition on Wednesday, April 26 from 4-5:30 p.m. in the school’s cafeteria.

Local celebrity chefs will judge the cook-off.

The event is a culmination of a six-week program administered by Wake Forest University for third through fifth graders in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. As part of the Kids Cooking Coalition, Wake Forest students volunteer at local schools and community centers during the spring to teach kids about cooking and how they can prepare easy, healthy recipes at home.

“We currently partner with two sites to support after-school enrichment opportunities: Cook Literacy Model School and the recreation center at Polo Park,” said Brad Shugoll, director of service and leadership with Wake Forest’s Office of Civic and Community Engagement. The cooking curriculum introduces the children to basic concepts of nutrition and makes them comfortable with basic cooking techniques.”

Wake Forest students teach cooking curriculum to local kids.

At the beginning of each class, Wake Forest students set up a board that shows different sections of the MyPlate diagram.

“One week it’s proteins and the next week could be fruits and vegetables.  We discuss a portion of the diagram and then our recipes are wrapped around that topic,” said Sarah Smitherman, a junior health and exercise science major from Fort Worth, Texas and a student director.

All of this experience is preparing fifth grade students at Cook Literacy Model School for a cooking finale.  Eight students who have participated in the program for the past two years will be divided up into two teams.

“The kids are picking a country and then we are doing an appetizer, a main meal, a side dish and a dessert from that country, so we are adding a cultural aspect to it,” Smitherman said. “I think seeing the knowledge that the kids brought over from the cooking class to the competition was great. They were all saying we need to have something from all the food groups in our main dishes.”

The elementary students have been practicing for the big cook-off over the past couple of weeks and are finding creative ways to present their dishes. Their classmates and parents will be on hand to cheer them along.

“The program is having a positive impact on our students,” said James Staton, an administrator at Cook Literacy Model School. “There’s a lot of excitement throughout the building about the upcoming competition.”

For many families they serve, having the resources to participate in enrichment opportunities after the school day ends can be challenging. Cook is a Title I school.

“I have about half the school now asking me to sign up for the program and that’s some of the things we like to see and hear,” said Staton.

“We have students who have never had kiwi or mango and the Kids Cooking Coalition gives them an opportunity to try some of these things and expose them to new learning experiences. ” James Staton, an administrator at Cook Literacy Model School.

Senior Kylee Rappaport has been working with kids in the program for the past four years.

“I love the relationship building with students and the community. I’ve got to see the students grow as individuals and see the knowledge they gain about nutrition and the questions that they ask. My favorite part is watching these kids get excited about healthy cooking and how they like to show their new cooking skills to their friends and families,” said Rappaport. 

The Kids’ Cooking Coalition (KCC), designed by Margaret Savoca, Ph.D., nutrition researcher and long-time community volunteer, first launched in the spring of 2018 in partnership with the Campus Kitchen at Wake Forest.

This is the second year for the cooking competition.

Note: Media members are invited to attend the Kids Cooking Coalition Competition at Cook Literacy Model School. For more information, contact Keri Brown, 336-758-4442 or C: 336-971-5402, or media@wfu.edu.

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