FoodCorps Michigan hosts workshop on locally sourced food and healthy recipes

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FoodCorps Michigan hosts workshop on locally sourced food and healthy recipes
Kids learn about the properties of vegetables, grains and fruits in a FoodCorps class. Photo by Emma Laut

• Kids Cooking with Ms. Emma of FoodCorps Michigan

• 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23.

• Ferndale Area District Library, 222 E. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale.

• Ages 7 and older (some adult assistance may be required).

• Register at 248-546-2504.

For Digital First Media

Next week kids will be back in the classroom, and back in their school’s cafeterias. Emma Laut wants to teach them to make more nutritional choices.

Laut is a FoodCorps/AmeriCorps service member serving at Ferndale Lower Elementary. She will host a free program Wednesday, Aug. 23 to give kids a hands-on learning experience about cooking and creating healthy recipes from locally sourced ingredients.

“A vast majority of schools are, no pun intended, hungry … for this kind of programming!” Laut said. She served as the nutrition and school garden leader with kindergarten through second-grade students at Ferndale Lower Elementary last year to create hands-on learning experiences, prioritize healthy lunches and promote a schoolwide culture of health.

FoodCorps Michigan is part of a national initiative, aligned with the AmeriCorps service network, to deliver nutrition education around the state. AmeriCorps is a civil society program with up to 80,000 volunteers serving to improve education, public safety, the environment and public health. There are more than 200 FoodCorps service members across the nation.

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“FoodCorps takes the approach, in looking at our nation’s issues regarding child hunger and obesity rates, that it’s solvable — that within our lifetime, we can fix this,” Laut said.

Laut and her colleagues build and tend school gardens, and collaborate with cafeteria managers to bring high-quality local food into student’s regular lunch menus. Laut said her nutrition lessons introduce concepts of science and social justice; “just a sprinkle, though,” she said.

“Food is a very important tool for success, and it’s important to be leveraging gaps in access (to food). Serving in schools is an incredible way to start doing that.”

But Laut’s service really centers on empowering kids.

“One of the best things I did last year was a big ‘Learn To Cook’ movement, a series of lessons where kids pick the recipe, they learn how to measure, how to prep, and really every step involved,” she said. Her second-graders chose a fruit kabob with yogurt and granola, while her ambitious first-graders took on macaroni & cheese with pumpkin. This piggy-backed on a lesson in the democratic process, because students voted for these recipes on a ballot with handwritten reasons why they chose them. (“Extra orange,” one voter wrote for the pumpkin cheese dish.)

“When you give kids their choice, they’ll end up making some incredible decisions and doing things you’d never imagine,” Laut said.

Laut, who is from Indianapolis but recently moved to the metro Detroit area, got her degree in biology at Marian University, and she has substantial experience in community service. When she coordinated a “Picky Eaters” seminar, she took on the difficulties parents have when trying to enforce healthier diet in their home kitchens.

In the cooking class, Laut will teach kids ages 7 and older to create mild salsa from locally sourced produce. She’ll lead kids through a hands-on process of growing produce, preparing ingredients and mixing it together to create their own dish.

• IF YOU GO: Kids Cooking with Ms. Emma of FoodCorps Michigan is at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 23, at the Ferndale Area District Library, 222 E. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale. The program is for ages 7 and older (some adult assistance may be required). To register, call 248-546-2504.

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