4-H Cooking Challenge engaging youth in food preparation 

by May 7, 2020COMMUNITY sgadugi, Health





While in quarantine, children are learning important lessons about cooking, nutrition, and health in the 4-H Cooking Challenge.  Facilitated by the EBCI Cooperative Extension Office, the program is helping youth make various dishes and learn an important life skill.  

Kayden Dial, Gabe Dial, and Orion Skulski are shown with their finished egg bake dish. The three brothers are all participants in the 4-H Cooking Challenge sponsored by the EBCI Cooperative Extension Office. (Photos by Malia Crowe)

“The main goal for our 4-H Cooking Challenge is to provide a hands-on program to engage our youth during the COVID-19 crisis,” said Sally Dixon, extension agent and 4-H youth development with the EBCI Cooperative Extension Office.  “We’ve been mandated to only offer virtual 4-H programming during this time so we are trying to remain a resource for developing our young people even with the struggles like internet access that we have in a rural, mountain setting.”  

Youth ages 4-15 have been involved in the Cooking Challenge in which they are sent a kid-friendly recipe and how-to video to help them make the dish.  “What’s great is that we have a lot of whole families, so all the kids in a family can help with this,” said Dixon.  

She adds, “The recipes are all healthy and cost-effective, something people are really thinking about during this time.  During the week, they create the recipe and then watch the video to get actual hands-on experience with increasing their cooking skills from home.” 

Kayden and Gabe mix ingredients for the egg bake.

Malia Crowe, an EBCI tribal member, has three sons in the program.  “As a parent, I enjoy seeing my sons being excited not only about cooking but also adding different veggies and healthy elements to the recipe.  Orion tends to complain less about the veggies if he helped fix it and helped prepare it.  It’s also more than just recipes.  There are also instructional videos for them to watch like why it is important to cut veggies and raw meat using separate tools.  The last one was how to take internal temperatures to make sure dishes are cooked thoroughly.”  

She is happy to see her sons learning cooking skills early on.  “I picked up cooking by watching and helping in the kitchen with my grandparents and mother.  I’ve always encouraged my boys to help in the kitchen.  It is a skill that will help them in life.  This program takes it a step further and can give them a deeper understanding.  I think it’s really great and fun for the whole family.”  

Her sons all attend Cherokee Central Schools. 

Gabe and Orion watch an instructional food preparation video.

Gabe Dial, 11, noted, “Something I learned is each type of food has a special place in the kitchen.  I also learned the difference between measuring dry and wet ingredients.  My favorite recipe to make was the bagel pizzas because it was so good and Italian.  I liked the egg bake also.  It was good.  I am looking forward to the next recipe of double veggie fried rice.”  

Kayden Dial, 9, commented, “I learned that you need to make sure that your food is healthy – that way you help your body to work good.  I like that I am learning to cook more recipes.  My favorite recipe was the pizza because I like pizza.  I also liked the egg bake because it tastes like breakfast.”  

Orion Skulski, 5, said, “My favorite food was the bagel pizza because it was so delicious, and it had a cheesy goodness flavor and I made it.  I learned that I can help cook.”  

Dixon said this program fits well into the goals of the 4-H program.  “The fourth ‘H’ of 4-H is health.  And, 4-H is all about life skills as well.  So, learning how to cook and eat healthy foods is a pivotal piece of promoting health.  We can teach kids to eat healthy, but until they do it at home it doesn’t become part of that lifestyle change.  Getting families involved is great for making eating healthy something that can happen at home every day.”  

Crowe is thankful for the program her sons are participating in.  “I really appreciate Sally Dixon and all of the Cooperative Extension staff.  They have worked really hard gathering fun and engaging activities for families to do at home.”