By JEFF MEYERS
PLATTSBURGH — Maggie LaBarge was one of a baker’s dozen who learned how to prepare healthy dishes during the Town of Plattsburgh’s Kids Cook It Up program.
LaBarge, 9, took part in the recent summer workshops because they “looked really fun, and I get to cook.”
It also helped kids pick up a sense of confidence in the kitchen, she added.
“You feel more mature,” she said of the progress she and her 12 classmates enjoyed during the week-long sessions.
One day, they learned how to make quesadillas and different summer dips.
LaBarge, who attends Cumberland Head Elementary School, enjoys helping her dad make French toast in the morning, and now she is excited about sharing some of the recipes she has mastered at Kids Cook It Up.
Hannah Charlebois, 10, a Morrisonville Elementary School student, has also had experience at home, making tacos and pasta. But she said the classes helped her learn more about cooking, in general.
“We’re learning how to use different ingredients and how to set the oven (correctly for cooking temperatures),” she said. “We’ve also learned about using the food processor.”
Charlebois also appreciated learning about different cultures from the variety of foods she and her companion chefs mixed up.
Kids Cook It Up, which has been offered by the town as a summer activity for the past several years, is open to children ages 9 to 12.
“Our focus is on getting the kids used to using knives and other basic kitchen utensils while introducing new foods that they may not otherwise try at home,” said Erin Pangborn, the town’s recreation program coordinator, who oversees the cooking sessions.
“We want to introduce them to different foods they can try rather than canned or frozen foods they may be familiar with.”
The program also supports the Recreation Department’s goal of providing activities that promote the well-being of the community, she added.
“Most of our recipes are vegan, low-fat and low-sodium recipes,” she said. “A lot of kids don’t realize the importance of lower fat and less salt in the diet.”
Teaching children about healthy diets and food preparation is also a way to introduce healthy choices to the kids’ families, she added.
“A lot of the kids are going home and doing these recipes with their families,” Pangborn said.
Using fruits and vegetables rather than meats, fish and poultry during the workshops is also an advantage in preventing contamination problems and in introducing new food concepts.
“We are a meat-based community here,” Pangborn said as she described a recipe for quesadillas that used white beans rather than chicken or beef.
“They get to try everything they make, and they also bring food they’ve prepared home for their families,” she added.
“They’re really excited about sharing the dishes they’ve made, and they really enjoy tasting new foods.”
Food safety, including proper storage of foods and proper handling of utensils, is always paramount, stressed Pangborn, who has a degree in nutrition from SUNY Plattsburgh.
The kids start each session by washing their hands and donning their aprons. From that point on, it’s all about delicious fun in a safe and healthy environment.
Email Jeff Meyers:firstname.lastname@example.org