Hillendale students learn to ‘cook for real’

Students participate in healthy cooking and nutrition program

By Suzanne Misciagna, Correspondent, The Times

Yvonne Post, Founder of Cooking for Real, helps Hillendale third graders prepare pancakes during the hands-on cooking and nutrition demonstration.

PENNSBURY – The start of the school day on Thursday was a bit unusual for third graders at Hillendale Elementary School in the Unionville Chadds-Ford School District. Once the school bell rang and morning announcements were made, one of their first classes was learning how to make and taste some of the flavors of fall.

It’s all part of the Cooking for Real program – a hands-on cooking and nutrition demonstration led by Cooking for Real founder, Yvonne Post. The program, which began in 2005, teaches whole food nutrition and creating delicious and nutritious meals that any home cook can prepare.

Post, a former Holistic Health Counselor and educator, teaches her hands-on cooking and nutrition workshops for kids and adults alike in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“Food is a personal thing,” says Post. “Many people are reluctant to try a new food. Our goal is to show how easy it is to use fresh, local ingredients to create recipes that are full of flavor and prepared in as little as 30 to 40 minutes.”

The menu item of the day for Hillendale students was squash pancakes. With each ingredient, students learned where the food came from and how it affects the body. Students took turns mixing the pancake batter (while singing the ‘Shake, Shake, Shake Your Pancake’ song), flipping the pancakes, and the best part – eating them.

“I loved mixing the pancake batter and singing the song,” says third-grader Jenna O’Neill. “I learned a lot too. I never knew that some sugars can be good for you or that the calcium in milk comes from the grass that the cows eat,” she adds.

Post’s visit to Hillendale is a reflection of the school and the district’s commitment to wellness.

“We want kids to know about the farmers in our community and where our food comes from,” says Maia Walter, Hillendale’s school nurse. “We also want kids to try different foods,” she adds.

The staff at Hillendale has a few tricks of their own in helping kids be healthy eaters. Once a month, Hillendale offers a Fruit Adventure Club where a group of students try a sampling of fruits that they may not necessarily find in their local grocery store. Also, during the month of March, the cafeteria serves green ‘mystery’ smoothies with prizes given out for students who guess the correct ingredients. And, during the holidays, students get to read a holiday book while sampling foods from that book.

“Everything in our society today focuses on dieting,” says Post. “But, a diet is really what we put into our bodies every day.”

Post hopes her cooking program will help kids taste food for themselves and make their own decision as to whether they like it or not. Judging from the smiles on the students’ faces, the squash pancakes passed the test.

According to Post, “It’s great to introduce someone to a food they may have never tried before and hear them say, “Wow… It’s better than I thought it would be!’”

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