A group of 17 students in Grades 1-8 got to show off what they learned over the past month in the “Kids in the Kitchen” program by treating about 60 community members to dinner last week at Seine River First Nation.
Thanks to the Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services, which applied to the Ministry of Health for funding to stage the program in all 10 of the area bands, the students learned how to prepare healthy meals over 10 sessions from April 15-May 10.
The “Kids in the Kitchen” program at Seine River was co-ordinated by Frances Kabatay, community health representative and community diabetes prevention worker, who worked with the students twice a week at the kitchen at the band office.
During the sessions, the students prepared the ingredients, cooked meals from recipes (a salad, main dish, and dessert at each session), and then got to eat what they made.
“They were just so proud of themselves when they were making the food,” said Kabatay.
“If there was leftovers, they’d take some home and share it with their mom and dad, and the next day, the parents would call me and say, ‘Wow, that was a real good yogurt muffin that I ate,’ or ‘That pizza pie was good.’
“They were just really surprised that the kids could do this,” she added.
Kabatay stressed she only purchased the food, put it out on the table, and got the recipes ready—all the rest was done by the students.
“For the bigger stuff, like cutting up the veggies and frying the meat, I got the older ones to do it,” she noted.
“The small ones would wash the vegetables, the simple stuff. For a pizza, they would be ones arranging the veggies on it.”
Kabatay said the purpose of the program was to teach kids how to prepare healthy meals—from washing their hands to preparing ingredients and following recipes to actually cooking.
As well, they learned about the link between diabetes and healthy eating, and even used sugar substitutes (like sugar-free brown sugar and Splenda) in the recipes they prepared for the community dinner.
Kabatay said she was impressed by the students’ enthusiasm over the 10 sessions.
“They listened. I would tell them, ‘Okay, you guys do this.’ And once they were done, they would come up to me and ask, ‘What else do you want me to do?’
“Sometimes, I would have to say, ‘Okay, kids, one at a time’ because I couldn’t think of anything else,” she chuckled.
Kabatay said she also made a special effort to make sure the kids didn’t get bored during the sessions.
“I didn’t want them to get turned off of cooking,” she stressed. “I remember as a kid, my mom would say, ‘Peel potatoes!’ And I would go, ‘Oh, no!’
“But today, we’ve learned we don’t really need to peel potatoes.
“We just need to scrub them good and then cook them with the skin because it’s healthier,” she remarked.
Likewise, Kabatay was pleased with the students’ dedication, noting an average of 15 kids attended each of the 10 sessions while four had perfect attendance.
All of the children received “Kids in the Kitchen” attendance certificates, while the four with perfect attendance—Destinee Perreault, Cynthia Morrison, Tiffany Morrison and Todd Morrison—received Wal-Mart gift cards as a reward, although they weren’t told ahead of time there would be a prize for perfect attendance.
Before the sessions wrapped up, Kabatay said her husband, Randy, who is her biggest supporter in what she does in the community, came up with the idea for the kids to cook for the community and show what they can do.
“So when I brought it up to the kids at one of our sessions, the kids were so excited about the idea they wanted to cook for the community right away. I told them we needed to finish up our 10 sessions first,” said Kabatay.
So on May 17, the children served up dinner and dessert at the Seine River gymnasium—impressing parents, grandparents, and other community members.
The students made the desserts on the Sunday (May 16). And since they had the day off school on the Monday, then spent that day preparing the main dishes.
The extensive menu included Caesar salad, coleslaw with fruit, veggie pizza, chicken and sausage penne, cheesy sloppy joes, cheeseburger pie, supreme pizza casserole, Mandarin orange cake, apple yogurt muffins, and Rice Krispies squares.
“I was so overwhelmed with how well they did,” Kabatay enthused. “Even once all of the food was on the table and people could get up and serve themselves, I asked the kids, ‘Can you kids go behind there and serve them?’
“And all 17 of them did.
“They weren’t even worried about themselves, if they were going to eat,” she chuckled.
“All of the adults were so surprised how well they did—serving all of the people, then seeing these 17 kids with the aprons serving themselves.
“It looked so cute.”
Kabatay said Friday she still was getting compliments from people on the dinner the youngsters had prepared, adding everyone enjoyed the food and was surprised that she didn’t do any cooking, just supervised the kids.
The 17 students included: Dakota Johnson, Brayden Friday, Jennessa Friday, Jeremiah Potson, Sarah Cupp, Tiffany Morrison, Elita Boshkaykin, Chelsea Kabatay, Kaylee Johnson, Brady Bishop, Dwayne Big Bear Jr., Jade Johnson, Cynthia Morrison, Destinee Perreault, Elizabeth Boshkaykin, Todd Morrison, and Aidan Kabatay.
For the “Kids in the Kitchen” program, Fort Frances Tribal Area Health Services provided the cooking supplies, ingredients for all recipes and “Kids in the Kitchen” aprons.
They also provided a Nintendo Wii console as a draw prize for kids that participated in the program. The winner was Sarah Cupp.