Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on July 2, 2009. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Fun with food camp gets kids cooking
By Karen Templeton
MSU Ag Communications
MISSISSIPPI STATE – Busy schedules and hectic lives are making it increasingly difficult for families to prepare meals together and find the time to sit down to enjoy them.
Sylvia Byrd, associate professor in Mississippi State University’s Department of Food Science, Nutrition and Health Promotion, realizes that children need positive, in-kitchen experiences starting at a young age. That is why she developed the “Fun with Food” camp for third- through sixth-grade students. The camp was held at MSU for the third consecutive year June 22-26.
Byrd and Chef Roland Parny, MSU’s coordinator of culinary activities, developed activities that cultivate children’s interest in food and give them an understanding of how food makes its way from farms to their tables.
Children prepare all of the meals they eat all week, and learn new culinary techniques and how to work with ingredients they may have never seen or tasted before, such as spaghetti squash.
“It is fun to see and hear their reactions to new foods,” Byrd said. “We don’t expect them to like everything they try, but we don’t allow words like ‘weird,’ ‘gross’ or ‘disgusting.’ We encourage them to really taste the foods and be more descriptive with terms like ‘savory,’ ‘sour,’ ‘earthy’ or ‘sweet.’”
At camp, kids also get the opportunity to expand their math knowledge while learning basic knife skills. Camp leaders demonstrate cutting melons into halves, quarters and eighths, helping the campers better understand fractions.
Not only do children learn to better appreciate food, but they also learn about the farms where their food is grown or raised. Providing an understanding of how food makes its way to the kitchen table is one of the biggest components of the camp.
Camp leaders encourage children and their families to be “locavores” and eat food that comes from within a 100-mile radius of where they live. Byrd said eating locally grown foods can ensure fresher products with more nutrients, support local farmers and cut down on fuel emissions from transporting food long distances.
“Mississippi is a fantastic place to eat locally,” Byrd said. “Our farmers do a wonderful job of providing us fresh fruits and vegetables.”
The camp provides an actual tour of the farm-to-table journey through field trips to a family-run farm, a dairy, an animal production unit and a grocery store. The trips give children a new appreciation for the ingredients they use in the kitchen for their many cooking activities.
“The trip to the tomato farm was my favorite,” said camper Savannah Guyton of Starkville. “I loved using the tomatoes to dice up for making salsa.”
Each day at camp brings a new cooking adventure. The campers make everything from pizza and bread to soups and quiche. The cooking activities require them to learn how to read a recipe, select appropriate culinary tools and work together.
“I learned how to make stir fry,” said camper Aubrey Campbell of Starkville. “My dad said I can help him make stir fry at home.”
Taking lessons home is just what Byrd intended.
“What the children learn here can be enjoyed by the entire family,” Byrd said. “Every year, kids leave camp with a new appreciation of the culinary world and are eager to get home and share this knowledge with their families.”