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Chefs Move to Schools: Kids create a favorite at Pizza Camp

September 4, 2012
in Spotlight

The Health, Wellness & Environmental Studies Magnet School in Jonesboro, Arkansas, a Chefs Move to Schools 2012 grant recipient, recently hosted a two-day hands-on Pizza Camp.  Third- and fourth-grade students representing six school districts participated in the camp, with goals that included expanding their palate for fresh local fruits and vegetables, learning where food comes from, and practicing basic culinary skills while cooking a healthy meal.

Camp organizer Melinda Smith, who heads the Nutrition Lab at HWES, wanted students to use local ingredients and to learn how those foods are grown and produced.  She met with vendors at the local farmers market the week before camp to learn what items would be available, and to let them know that the Pizza Camp kids would be shopping for ingredients they may have never seen before and would probably be asking questions. HWES’s Chefs Move to Schools grant allowed Smith to purchase special market wooden coins that students used to purchase their items.

The first day of Pizza Camp began with a trip to the local community farmers market.  The students were paired and given note cards of needed ingredients. They also got to agree on a “free choice.” They left the market with a variety of locally grown and handmade items that would be used the next day for ingredients in their recipes, including: tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, honey, peaches, blueberries, corn, squash, zucchini, homemade jelly, homemade bread, and watermelon.

The next day of camp, cooking day, the student kitchen in the Nutrition Lab was set up in stations according to menus and recipes: pizza topping station, pizza sauce and pesto station, and salad and dressing stations.  Each station made enough of their items for the whole group to use, and HWES has a garden from which students could harvest herbs for their recipes.  After all station tasks and recipes were complete, students enjoyed a snack break to share their “free choices” from the farmers market.

In preparing their pizzas, students made their own dough and chose the toppings they wanted. Along with preparing the meal, each group was responsible for setting their own table and washing their own equipment and dishes.  The camp ended with students autographing each other’s aprons and receiving   “Wooden Spoon” awards, such as Champion Chopper, Sharpest Knife Skills, Greatest Grater, Savvy Slicer, Jamming Juicer, and Happy Harvester.  Each camper left with a cookbook of all the Pizza Camp recipes.

Melinda Smith said that before the camp, one of the students made a comment to her mother that she didn’t know why the camp would run all day, because the pizzas they make at home only take 15 minutes – she had no clue where crust, sauce and toppings came from.  “The priceless moments came from seeing the children using knives and equipment they had never used, and listening to their conversations with each other when they tasted new foods,” Smith said.

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