Sto-Rox students mix, cook and taste to learn about nutrition
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"Who wants to try a carrot-cucumber-green pepper-celery drink?" asked Darcy Mueller, a nurse in the Sto-Rox School District.
As she takes the first sip of her greenish-brown creation, her eyebrows furl slightly before she says by way of enticement, "It's different!"
Student members of the high school's Youth Advisory Committee pause in the creation of their own smoothies to first sniff and then taste what the nurse has created with the use of a juicer.
The students are in agreement, while this particular juice isn't as bad tasting as they assumed it would be, it still is not something they would pursue making.
"Can you tell that we don't really like vegetables?" asked Samara Bell, a sophomore. Meanwhile, senior Nick Bane joked, "My taste buds are very confused."
The students sampled this culinary delight and quite a few more last Thursday with Mrs. Mueller and Francine Schmid, food service director with The Nutrition Group.
They met to discuss "The Importance of Beverages" learning about the benefits of water, raw fruits, vegetables and antioxidants as one of the group's monthly gatherings.
These Youth Advisory Committee meetings fulfill a national food lunch program requirement by the Agriculture Department. The types of programming vary from district to district and among food service management companies.
With her background in culinary arts and a bit of creativity, Mrs. Schmid decided to expand the basic program from one of nutritional education to include a hands-on approach. She said the changes she made during this year -- her first with Sto-Rox -- has slowed the rate of turnover and has created more of an interest in the program, which has its members appointed.
"They don't want to be talked to about nutrition, they want to try it and do it," she said.
Nick's exposure to the program has created an interest he hadn't known he possessed. For years he had assumed he would follow in the footsteps of his family and become a fifth-generation member of the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers.
The Boilermakers union includes members who work in construction and maintenance in the field and in industrial and commercial plants.
Yet, since becoming involved with the committee, Nick has begun considering a different career path in the field of culinary arts. The oldest of six, Nick also enjoys working with his father, Dale Bane, to create smoked venison products.
"Really it's anything with food, as long as I make it," he said. "Even if I'm not eating it, I love to do it."
Still unsure of the direction he will take, Nick is considering following both paths to see how things turn out. He said he is prepared to work during the day taking classes to become a Boilermaker and in the evening to become a chef or pastry chef or vice-versa.
While not designed to influence career paths, the committee is used to introduce proper eating habits to students at a younger age and to provide them a say in their school lunches. Additionally, an advisory board composed of parents, administrators and students meets a few times a year to discuss lunch programming.
Mrs. Schmid oversees committee meetings at the elementary and middle school levels, too. A recent program at the elementary school titled Farmer's Market allowed students a chance to try different types of fresh herbs and greens. She said she had to reassure the students that they were not going to be eating weeds.
During a previous high school meeting, the six students in that group created alfredo sauce using the recipe from Lidia's Italy restaurant in the Strip District. From there, Mrs. Schmid instructed them in making a low-fat version and discussed the health benefits involved.
The students then created their own sauce and decided on which types of sauces they would like to see in a pasta bar being offered by the cafeteria the following week.
Besides learning about nutrition, students are learning basic cooking skills such as proper measuring, safety and knife skills. Since the district no longer offers home economic classes at the high school, some of these students are being exposed to this level of cooking for the first time. Home economics is offered at the middle school for grades 7 and 8.
Another high school advisory committee member, Justin Heagy, shared a taste of and the recipe for his "famous" iced tea with the group.
A senior and a volunteer with the Presston Volunteer Fire Department, Justin makes tea using 4 cups of water, 6 tea bags, 21/2 cups of ice, three-quarter cup of sugar and fresh lemon. The water and tea bags are brought to a boil until the tea is the desired strength. Justin recommends boiling the tea for three minutes. After removing it from the heat, add sugar and stir until dissolved. Squeeze in lemon juice and pour over ice to serve.
While Justin's recipe does include sugar, Mrs. Schmid told students to experiment with amounts and to include an additional squeeze of lemon or lime or a sprig of mint to enhance flavor and increase antioxidants, already a benefit in green and black teas.
While creating smoothies, Mrs. Schmid incorporated soy milk into the ingredients available, getting the students to try something new. The smoothies were a big hit and included raw fruit, plain yogurt and juice.
Samara and Arielle Victorelli were impressed with how easy it was to make a smoothie. They agreed that healthful smoothies would become a part of their daily routine. Arielle said the worst part would be peeling the fruit, something not required if using a juicer to make fresh juice using raw fruits and vegetables.
First Published May 17, 2012 5:04 am