The second year of Kids in the Kitchen camp went off without a hitch last week.
The camp, ironically named as there isn’t actually a kitchen available, is hosted by Emerson Family Center, but funded through Mississippi State’s Extension Services. With MSU footing the bill, the camp is completely free of cost to the campers.
“It was such a success last year that we decided to make it an annual thing,” said Frances Page, Extension Program Assistant for food health promotion.
During the two-day camp, children ages seven to 13 learned all the basics about cooking, from techniques like measuring, sautéing, chopping and browning, to kitchen safety and recipe reading.
“We teach them all the basics, then they get to take what they’ve learned and prepare a meal together,” Page explained. “The unique thing is that they have to prepare a meal without a kitchen. Instead, they are using electric appliances, which shows them they can still eat a balanced meal without having a kitchen.”
Page calls MSU’s Extension Services a “well-kept secret” as the program is often out in the community without many knowing.
“It’s a big push right now with the Extension Services to teach people to increase physical activity and healthy eating,” Page explained. “We go out and do nutrition education in the schools, and this (camp) is an extension of that.”
In addition to cooking skills, campers learn about healthy eating, and they also spent time doing physical activity before meals.
“It gives the children a chance to meet other children, and prepare something they usually wouldn’t eat,” Page said. “It gives them a chance to learn that they can prepare food for themselves, which in turn increases their self-esteem because they see that they’ve achieved something they normally wouldn’t do at home... I’m enjoying seeing them working together to achieve something together, and watching them try (foods) they may not have tried before.”
Thursday, the children prepared a Southwest pasta dish with salad and a fruit pizza. Most of the campers had never had the opportunity to try a fruit pizza before, and some were skeptical with its cookie crust and cream cheese “sauce,” but “yums” resounded at lunch time as each tried their first bite, which is one of the camp rules — Everyone must try at least one bit of food, even if they think they may not like it because you never know until you try.
Friday, campers prepared an alfredo chicken pasta dish with fruit mini kabobs. Instead of regular kabob sticks, campers used toothpicks, which some nick named fruit picks.
“Our goal is to bring people into the center,” said Elmarie Brooks, director of Families First Resource Center. “We’re here to serve families, and we try to come up with activities to reach our goals,” she added of the camp.