Teen Cuisine spices up nutrition education for Virginia students

Students in the Teen Cuisine program  learn about nutrition education.

By Emily Halstead

Teens across the commonwealth are taking a new approach to nutrition education during Teen Cuisine classes offered by Virginia Cooperative Extension’s Family Nutrition Program. Launched in the summer of 2013, Teen Cuisine was designed to provide young people with cooking classes and information about food safety and nutrition.

“Teen Cuisine has contributed significantly to the increase in nutrition education statewide because, in the past, we haven’t really had a curriculum to offer to older students,” said Lynn Margheim, a Family Nutrition Program trainer. “I think the students like the program because they also get a book that is full of recipes and other practical food safety and nutrition knowledge.”

The six-lesson curriculum — offered to students in grades 6 to 12 — includes a mixture of classroom training and hands-on food preparation and cooking.

“Many students tell me that they now prepare family meals at home because of what they have learned from our lessons in Teen Cuisine,” said Kim Russell, a program assistant in Smyth County.

Currently there are 70 Family Nutrition Program assistants conducting nutrition education programs throughout the state. Fifty of those assistants are in classrooms, after-school programs, and summer programs where they can focus on educating youth.

“A lot of the career and technical funds are being cut around the state, including many family and consumer sciences classes where the students have the chance to learn about nutrition and to practice food preparation skills,” Margheim said. “Teen Cuisine offers them a short course that administrators and teachers can bring into the schools at a very low cost and have someone else provide the classes for them.”