News Feature

Deer Isle
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, February 27, 2014
“Kids in the kitchen”
Ready By 21 sends food home for vacation

Ready By 21 pilot program comes to Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School in Maine

Josie Eaton, a Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School student, in Maine, was one of 40 students in grades 1 and 3 to participate in a pilot program aimed at teaching students healthy eating habits and cooking skills. The bag, which contained the makings for dinner and snacks, went home with the students over February break.

Photo courtesy of Amy Vaughn

by Faith DeAmbrose

What do you get when you mix one part education with one part skill development, sprinkle on some healthy habits and then top with a dollop of food security?

The answer is “Kids in the Kitchen,” a pilot program of Ready By 21’s K-6 workgroup at Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School.

Just prior to February vacation week, students in grades 1 and 3 came home with a few extra items: the ingredients for no-bake peanut butter balls, organic microwave popcorn and the makings for broccoli pasta with parmesan cheese to serve a family of four.

The program focused on two specifics, said Amy Vaughn of the Ready By 21 Steering Committee: nutrition (to teach students about healthy food options) and education (about the basics of cooking), but also addressed issues surrounding food insecurity.

“We wanted to get kids into the kitchen, get families cooking together and encourage them to try some healthy foods that they would like,” said Vaughn.

In addition, for a school where roughly 68 percent of students are eligible for either free or reduced school lunch, there is some concern that students outside of the school environment may benefit from the additional food. “Free and reduced lunch numbers are often a community’s best indicator of childhood poverty,” explained Vaughn.

In preparation for the launch of the pilot program, high school students—as part of Ready by 21’s Real World 101 program—tested the recipes, which were chosen by RB21 director Kyra Alex. “Kyra picked the recipes and figured out the amount of food that was needed, and the high school students tested them and made some adjustments to the original recipes,” Vaughn said.

The students in the first grade also had their own demonstration in the classroom before they left for vacation. There they learned to chop the broccoli for the pasta dish, popped the popcorn and made the peanut butter balls. “They chopped and ate every drop of raw broccoli,” said Vaughn.

Ready By 21 sent home 40 bags of food supplies with students; the program was funded through the Coordinated School Health Program grants administered by Healthy Acadia.