Minestrone soup was on the menu Thursday for the students signed up for the after-school program Kids in the Kitchen at Jo Lane Middle School.

Oregon State University Extension Services and the Mercy Foundation have teamed up to teach cooking skills to students in schools where more than half of the students qualify for reduced cost or free lunches.

“Some of the kids don’t know how to cook at all,” instructor Erin Maidlow said. “It’s fun to see where they are on day one and where they are at the end. They get super excited.”

At the start of the class, students took turns reading the list of ingredients and then the directions.

Maidlow said knife skills, measuring, washing and food safety are priorities in the class.

She would sometimes ask questions or explain, such as the difference between a boil and a simmer, as the class continued.

The program is in its second week, but throughout the class, Maidlow reminded them of food safety tips they learned in the first week. Washing hands, putting food away in a timely manner and not reusing a spoon to taste the soup while it simmered.

Sixth grader Isaiah Brown said he wanted to be able to make eggs Benedict by the time the class finished, while Lucas Vandyke said he wanted to learn how to make French toast.

Others joined the class because they wanted to make more than just toast or mac and cheese.

“I want to get better at cooking,” eighth grader Bethel Miramontes said. “It’s fun to try the food at the end.”

Maidlow uses Food Hero recipes in her class, which are designed to be quick, easy and incorporate fruits and vegetables.

“Each class has a nutrition component,” OSU Extension Service SNAP-Ed Coordinator Mandy Hatfield said.

Students also learn how to adjust recipes based on dietary needs.

Maidlow’s favorite recipe in the class is sunshine roll-ups, a wrap with chicken, celery and mandarin oranges. But the class also makes an alternative recipe with garbanzo beans instead of chicken as a vegetarian option, as well as a rice bowl version of the recipe to make it gluten-free.

Cooking and nutrition classes are also taught at Fremont Middle School, Coffenberry Elementary School, Sutherlin West Intermediate and middle and elementary schools in Days Creek, Canyonville and Glide.

Maidlow started teaching the classes three years ago. She has also trained others, including nurses at CHI Mercy Medical Center, to teach the class to be able to offer it in more schools.

Once the minestrone soup was done, four of the 12 students said they would absolutely make the recipe again, but none of them had trouble finishing their minestrone soup.

Sanne Godfrey can be reached at sgodfrey@nrtoday.com or 541-957-4203. Follow her on Twitter @sannegodfrey.

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