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Fun in the kitchen: Centennial High School students learn healthy cooking and eating at KANC

June 4, 2014

A group of Centennial High School students work at the large Kendall Anderson Nutrition Center counter, chopping garlic and measuring olive oil for a homemade tomato sauce recipe.

As the fruit of their combined labors bubbles away in a large pot on the stove, the students share family recipe secrets and ask Shelby Chandler, food science and human nutrition graduate student, how to add even more healthy components like meat and veggies to the sauce.

Unique field trip for students

Once per semester, the Kendall Anderson Nutrition Center is filled with Centennial High School students, an alternative Fort Collins high school aimed at helping students who struggle in traditional high school structures. As part of "E" week, teachers come up with interesting community activities and the students vote on which they would like to participate in. Jerry Kreisher, P.E. teacher at Centennial High School, and his students have chosen to come to the KANC four times. The collaboration is unique to the area, giving the students the chance to meet and work with professional registered dietitians and to learn hands-on cooking skills in a professional kitchen.

Kreisher finds the hands-on cooking classes to be an awesome experience to get his students to really think about the food choices they are making. They took the morning to walk from the school to the KANC, which gives them a great fitness activity to work up their appetites.

Their visit included learning how to make homemade tomato sauce and healthy peanut butter cups. The recipes cut out processed foods and encouraged the students to try new ingredients. The peanut butter cup recipe, developed by food science and human nutrition master's student, Renae Addington, featured dates for natural sweetness. Before the cups were made, Addington made sure the students were able to try dates for the first time, further encouraging them to ditch the chips and snacks for this healthier option. 

"I loved how these students had an open mind about the food we prepared," shared Chandler. "Their teacher was quite excited to get the leftovers because several of them were hesitant about the ingredients at the start, but by the end, their teacher had nothing to take home because everyone had seconds!"

Offering a sense of community

Some of the students visiting the KANC also spent time on CSU's campus through the Campus Corps outreach program, which pairs at-risk youth with CSU student mentors. However, no other schools in the area offer a collaboration like this which discusses healthy eating, shopping, and meal planning while students learn how to cook. After taking turns making each recipe, the group and KANC staff sat down for lunch together. Through the laughter and smiles, it was clear that there was a sense of community and growing interest in cooking at home more often.

Chandler looks forward to working with future Centennial High School students. "This group seemed very excited to get involved and really felt accomplished in the skills they learned by the time we were finished."

The Kendall Anderson Nutrition Center offers a variety of nutrition education programs and services that are open to the community. See more information at the Kendall Anderson Nutrition Center website. The KANC is part of the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition in the College of Health and Human Sciences at Colorado State University.

Contact: Melissa Wdowik, PhD, RD
Phone: (970) 491-8615