OXFORD – “I think he has the potential to be a really great chef,” commented Youth Nutrition Educator Cheryl Gager as she observed Dain Hamilton. Under Gager’s watchful eye, the Oxford fifth grader expertly added minced garlic to a skillet which already contained onions he and his partner, tenth grader Ken Formato, had sautéed in vegetable oil.
Besides the stove were turnips, rutabaga, sweet potatoes and chicken thighs the pair had already prepped for the recipe they are working on: Braised Chicken with Root Vegetables.
While the recipe may seem advanced for a fifth grader, it is par for the course in Gager’s class. Twice a week, the Cornell Cooperative Extension nutrition educator travels to Oxford Middle School to teach the basics of food preparation and nutrition to kids in the Oxford Community Youth Center’s After School Program.
The class, called Cooking Up Fun, is funded through a grant from Cornell University’s Expanded Food Nutrition Program. It is provided at no cost to the school or parents.
“This is an awesome program for youth,” said CCE’s Nutrition Program Manager Betty Clark. “We need to get kids to eat healthier ... This is one way we can do that in our county.”
According to Clark, the program’s curriculum was developed by Cornell’s Division of Food and Nutritional Sciences. But there have been some modifications to the recipes to fit with the program’s local goal.