Cameron Smith dumps a carton of cherry tomatoes into a giant mixing bowl at the Kids' Cooking Campaign at the Santa Clarita valley School Food Services Agency on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal
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There is no such thing as too many cooks in the kitchen, according to the Santa Clarita Valley School Food Services Agency (SCVSFSA).

On Thursday, students from Merly Soni’s fourth grade class at Old Orchard Elementary learned basic cooking skills and prepared a Cinco de Mayo-themed lunch at the SCVSFSA’s Central Kitchen as part of the 22nd annual Kids Cooking Campaign.

“It’s so much fun working with them and they always love to learn,” said Mary Jo Kremer, area supervisor for SCVSFSA.  “This is such a great opportunity to get them to see what food service is about and to learn how to prepare food.”

In 1994 the Kids Cooking Campaign began as a partnership between the California Department of Education, Child Nutrition and Food Distribution Division and the Dairy Council of California to encourage healthy, nutritional choices and to promote family meals.

Old Orchard Elementary School fourth graders work together to mix a salad in a giant mixing bowl at the Kids’ Cooking Campaign at the Santa Clarita valley School Food Services Agency on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Today, the annual campaign includes five cooking days with fourth grade classes from all four of the local districts the SCVSFSA serves.

Through the campaign, students learn safe and simple preparation and cooking techniques, prepare meals with their peers and enjoy eating together as a group.

“I think this is a great opportunity for educators and for families to remember how important it is to make time for family meals and make healthy choices,” Soni said.

Before visiting the Central Kitchen, students met with Kremer during two class visits to discuss the meal’s theme, menu planning and USDA “MyPlate” nutritional requirements.  The class chose to make a Cinco de Mayo themed meal, complete with an enchilada bake, fruit kabobs, a salad and salsa.

The students also made table decorations and place mats for invited guests, community members and district staff to enjoy during the meal.

“They were very excited,” Soni said.  “They’ve been working very diligently getting things ready.”

Jillian Rhodes, left, and Aly Yokoyama, right, fourth graders from Old Orchard Elementary, sprinkle cheese onto the top of their black bean and quinoa enchilada bake at the Kids’ Cooking Campaign at the Santa Clarita valley School Food Services Agency on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Students arrived at the Central Kitchen at 9:30 a.m. to put on their hats and aprons before breaking into four groups to prepare their meal.

“We try to show them basic cutting techniques, mixing… all the things you need to learn when you’re beginning to cook,” Kremer said.  “Everyone prepares in a group and then they all take a group tour to see what’s here.”

Old Orchard Elementary students Avery Adelini, 9, and Savannah Gomez, 10, worked in a group to prepare the meal’s fruit and vegetable components.

“We made fruit kabobs and a salad,” Adelini said.

Gomez said she had made a similar meal at home with her sister before, but hopes to continue to make meals in the future.

“We had gloves on and mixed everything with our hands,” Gomez said.  “I want to keep cooking.”

Matthew Morales, left, and Cameron Smith, right, work together to slice cucumbers for a salad at the Kids’ Cooking Campaign at the Santa Clarita valley School Food Services Agency on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017. Katharine Lotze/Signal

Kremer said students who participate in the program tend to use the skills they learned at the Kids Cooking Campaign later in life.

“We found that with fourth grade students really seem to engage and do really well,” she said.  “They really remember it for forever.”

Additional schools participating in the 2017 Kids Cooking Campaign include Rosedell Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, Leona Cox Elementary and Castaic Elementary.

ccox@signalscv.com
661-287-5575
On Twitter as @_ChristinaCox_

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Christina Cox
Christina Cox is a multimedia journalist covering education, community and breaking news in the Santa Clarita Valley. She joined The Signal as a staff writer in August 2016.
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