Students at Skyline Elementary try Lentil Stew for the first time.
Food Educator Jack leads a Plant Part Salad lesson.
By Maggie Chen, AmeriCorps Food Educator
The Common Threads team has wrapped up our cooking season and is preparing to get back outside for garden lessons! But first, here’s an overview of how cooking went in 2022-2023 after nearly a 3-year hiatus due to the pandemic:
Teachers and students were excited to have cooking in the classrooms again! It was sweet to see some students proudly (and safely) use their kitchen tools while telling classmates that they had “done this before.” After so long without cooking classes, this year’s Food Educators did an amazing job troubleshooting and improving our cooking curriculum throughout the season.
Our recipes this school year were Plant Part Salad, Borscht, Lentil Stew, and Potato Curry. Food Educators discussed with students the nutritional value of the economical and accessible ingredients used, as well as the cultural significance and origins of the dishes. From elementary to middle school, student feedback for these recipes was overwhelmingly positive. It goes to show just how much of a difference food education can make! By preparing ingredients and being involved in the cooking process, many students felt empowered to try dishes they might otherwise avoid. If you want to check out the recipes for yourself, check out our E-Cookbook that has all the meals we cooked this winter.
With discussion prompts of “What would you change to make this taste better?” students were given space to think about their own food preferences and how to meet them. Responses ranged from “It needs more spice and less carrots,” to “I like sour things. It needs more citrus,” to “Put some ice cream in it.” Some more comments from our student chefs include:
“I didn’t like onions before, but now I do!”
“You should share this recipe with the cafeteria!”
“Can I have thirds?”
“Where can I get the recipe? I want to make this at home!”
To share with you the numbers on cooking lessons this season, I put my mental math and calculator skills to the test. From November 2022 to March 2023, Common Threads brought 708 cooking lessons to 20 different schools.
Students in the Bellingham, Mount Baker, and Ferndale school districts made 318 Plant Part Salads, 65 Borschts, 276 Lentil Stews, and 49 Potato Curries.
While it has been so enjoyable to cook with students in the classroom, Food Educator Corinne Hill-James has been having dreams about ridiculous amounts of lentil stew, and other team members have been finding dry lentils lying about in unexpected places. As the weather changes and the soil wakes up, the Common Threads team is also feeling ready to shift into garden activities.
In our last cooking classes, we asked students for suggestions of what to plant. All suggestions were considered, though some sparked conversations about different plants’ preferred climates and growing zones. While we won’t be able to grow happy bananas or pineapples here in the PNW, students are looking forward to blackberries, strawberries, potatoes, leafy greens, and more. In the coming weeks, we will be hosting open garden hours at the school gardens to keep them beautiful for garden lessons. Time to toss the spatula and pick up the shovel!