Most students at school cafeterias are usually not on the same side of the counter as cooks, but that's different after school at Callaway Hills Elementary School — because the students are the cooks.
Callaway Hills' cooking club is in its second year, after it was established as part of a Healthy Schools, Healthy Communities grant from the Missouri Foundation for Health. The grant aimed to reduce obesity at Callaway Hills, East, South and Thorpe Gordon elementary schools — decrease the body mass index in each school by 5 percent over five years, to be exact.
"They wanted to learn to make things at home," Callaway Hills school nutrition manager Patty Stegemann said of the biggest motivator for students to join the club.
One girl in the club said she was going to prepare an appetizer she learned how to make for the Super Bowl, Stegemann said.
Wednesday was the third of the seven Wednesdays the club meets this semester for an hour after school.
To join the club, students had to submit a one-page paper or two-minute video on "why you want to learn about cooking." Fifteen students were admitted to learn about kitchen safety, sanitation, table etiquette, and recipes and ingredients for fruits and vegetables, appetizers, main courses and desserts.
"It opens up all possibilities," Stegemann said of learning how to cook, adding, "You can expand your palette."
The menu prepared Wednesday included Mediterranean quinoa salad — with diced fresh red peppers, green and red onions, sliced olives, halved fresh cherry tomatoes, crumbled feta cheese, olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, and salt and pepper — and strawberry and spinach salad.
Given it's winter, the only ingredients students use that came from the school's garden club are leftover sweet potatoes, Stegemann said. However, she added, all the vegetable ingredients the students use could come from a garden — lettuce, spinach, zucchini, cabbage and kohlrabi, along with tomatoes and peppers.
Dana Doerhoff, Jefferson City Public Schools director of school nutritional services, also was in the kitchen with the students Wednesday.
Doerhoff said she wished she had an opportunity like this when she was in school, and she hopes other schools explore cooking clubs in the future.
Once the dishes were ready to eat, Stegemann had the groups explain what was in each dish and how they made it; students voted on whether they would eat that dish again.
"I think it's pretty good because I can cook for my family and grandparents," North Elementary School fourth-grader Gavin Wilson said.
Wilson said he hasn't cooked much at home, but he has helped his mom sometimes with cookies and brownies. He would like to be able to make a breakfast burrito.
Callaway Hills fourth-grader Lily Ahnert said she likes to make pancakes at home on the weekends and wants to learn how to make pizza from scratch.
Students will walk away with a chef's apron, cooking utensils and other items upon completion of the club's classes.
The last Wednesday on the calendar during this session, Feb. 28, will be the club's annual fundraiser dinner in conjunction with Callaway Hills' garden club. The meal the students will prepare for guests will include lasagna, garlic bread, spinach and strawberry salad, and sweet potato cinnamon roll cake.
The garden club students will explain how they grew the ingredients for the salad, there will be tours of the gardens and greenhouse, as well as more information about the garden club, nutrition and the cooking club.
Tickets cost $10 for an adult, $5 per student, $25 for a family of four and children 5-years-old and under are free. All tickets are to be sold by Feb. 21. Contact Kelsey Chrisman at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.