On Monday evening, eight families participated in a unique opportunity to hone their culinary skills and share a meal together at Lambert-Lavoie Elementary. This Family Cooking Night, the first of two that will take place this school year, was made possible with help from the Kids Cook Monday, an initiative that encourages families to cook and eat together on Monday nights. Research shows that kids who eat family dinners regularly get better grades in school, develop strong communication skills, are less likely to try drugs, and are less likely to be obese. Furthermore, cooking reinforces skills such as math, teamwork, and following instructions.
On the menu for Monday night was winter minestrone soup with kale and butternut squash, pesto ciabatta toasts, and fruit salad. You can download the recipe for the soup and toasts here. Each family worked together to prep an ingredient for the soup (e.g. dice onions, peel and cut carrots, mince garlic, chop kale, etc.). We then finished preparing the soup demo style. While the soup simmered, we made fresh basil pesto, which we spread on ciabatta rolls and sprinkled with mozarella cheese. The final dish to prepare was a fruit salad, with grapes, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, and blueberries. All of the families seemed to enjoy the meal, and one student remarked that he tried everything on his plate--a testament to the power of cooking to entice kids to try new things.
Students that participated in Family Cooking Night will also be taking part in a 6-week after school cooking class, led by Becky Barrett, the Head Chef at Lambert-Lavoie. Chef Becky has been working in Chicopee schools for 28 years, and is extremely passionate about feeding students delicious and healthy meals. The class will be co-taught by FoodCorps Service Member, Greta Shwachman, who has been conducting taste tests at Lambert since fall of 2015.
The cooking class, made up of 4th grade students, will meet once a week for 6 weeks, from January 5 - February 9. Each week the students will prepare a new dish and be given a recipe to take home and prepare with their families on Monday night. The goal of the class is to help our students develop self-efficacy in the kitchen and encourage families to eat healthy meals together at home. This year, all eight k-5 elementary schools in Chicopee will be offering a cooking class to students as part of our district wide farm to school efforts. Keep an eye out for sign-ups at your child's school!
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.