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Culinary Arts Students Share Healthy Cooking Habits at After-school Program

The roles have reversed for a few Normandy High School students who twice a week, spent their afternoons leading culinary arts classes with their younger counterparts.

The culinary lessons are an extension of Beyond Housing’s Healthy Internship Program (HIP), benefitting children who live in the Normandy footprint as well as surrounding municipalities. Through HIP, youth learn the importance of maintaining healthy lifestyles through gardening, physical activity, and making healthier choices in the kitchen. The high school students are paid a stipend to share their knowledge with elementary and middle school students in Beyond Housing’s Freedom School Program, which is held in the summer. One of the first student-teachers to volunteer for the program was Latasha Cain.

“It’s teaching me how to explain the process,” said the recent Normandy graduate. She plans to own her own restaurant one day.

With HIP receiving rave reviews from students — and extra grant funds — Ted Simpson broached the idea of extending the summer program. Simpson is the community health manager at Beyond Housing. He approached Chef Andrea O’Bannon, culinary arts instructor at Normandy High, with the idea to incorporate the cooking classes into the Beyond Afterschool program. This opportunity would give Normandy high schoolers a chance to share what they learn in the culinary arts class with younger students and hopefully spark an interest in culinary arts at a younger age.

The Culinary Arts students worked under the guidance of Chef Bannon, who is a credentialed ProStart instructor, at the Pagedale Family Support Center. Classes wrapped up in May.

“What you’re seeing at the Pagedale Family Support Center is an extension of a program that we’ve done with students in the Normandy community for a couple of years now,” Simpson said.

He added that the impact of peer-to-peer mentorship can leave a lasting impression on students.

“They get to see people who look like them, cooking healthier meals and teaching them how to make healthier decisions,” he continued. 

Funding for this program was provided by the Missouri Foundation for Health’s Healthy Schools Healthy Communities grant. The Foundation is a resource for the region, working with communities and nonprofits to generate and accelerate positive changes in health.

Simpson said the 24:1 area at one point had been tapped as a food desert. HIP is one of several initiatives at Beyond Housing that is a direct result of a rallying cry from families in Normandy footprint to have access to healthier foods.

Beyond Housing has also partnered with Operation Food Search to launch Cooking Matters, a seven-week culinary arts class for Normandy students and their families held two to three times a year. Cooking Matters at the Store is an event held at Save A Lot to teach families how to find and prepare healthier foods within their budget at their local market.

“We usually gain a lot of interest because at the end of each class, they always get to take home a bag of groceries of the things they learn how to cook,” Simpson said.

Plans to continue the culinary arts classes during the school year depends on acquiring additional funding, he said.

“We would like it to continue,” he continued.

Funding for the Healthy Schools Healthy Communities grant will end September 2018.

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CAPTION 1: Normandy elementary and middle school students learn how to measure during a culinary arts class at the Beyond Housing Pagedale Family Support Center. Shown here from left to right: Brenda Stevens, Jefferson Elementary; Howard Tucker, Normandy 7th-8th Grade Center; Danaya Jordan, Normandy 7th-8th Grade Center; De'zyre Dodson, Lucas Crossing Elementary Complex; and Jazmin Stevens, Jefferson Elementary.

CAPTION 2: Chef Andrea O’Bannon observes as Normandy High School students Micheal Flemon, Latasha Cain and Joshua Jones lead culinary arts classes at the Beyond Housing Pagedale Family Support Center.