WILLIAMSBURG-JAMES CITY COUNTY — In the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, the Williamsburg-James City County’s School Health Initiative Program (SHIP) issued a challenge to 200 students: Take home bag of seven ingredients and come up with a dish that could be served with Thanksgiving dinner.
The ingredients included in the kit were: acorn squash, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, rutabaga, onions, whole cranberries, a box of stuffing and a chef’s hat. The hat was for fun…not for food.
Once the kids made their dishes, they uploaded pictures of their creations onto the digital educational app, Padlet. There they could see what other students were doing, comment and trade recipes.
More than 200 families across the Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools’ (WJCC) district took part in the challenge and, according to Culinary Educator Liz Callan, the results were phenomenal.
“I knew these kids were going to come through with some solid Thanksgiving recipes,” Callan said. “But these kids were so inventive. We had one kid who made “Thanksgiving Nachos”. She made sweet potato chips and piled all the other ingredients piled on top. There were also many different variations on the casserole too. I get so hungry just looking at the pictures.”
On top of teaching children how to be self-sufficient in the kitchen, programs like Everything But the Bird encourages kids to expand their palates.
“Everything they made was from these completely whole vegetable starting from scratch,” Callan noted. “I doubt we had a child out there who had really tried rutabaga before and many of them had never cooked with any of these vegetable before.”
Everything But the Bird is a part of SHIPS’s Challenge Clubs. Challenge clubs are designed to help children acquire and hone healthy lifelong skills. Clubs include cooking and gardening as well as various sports and arts.
Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Callan and the rest of the SHIP team has taken to providing virtual activities to WJCC students.
Moving forward, Callan says that they are hoping that they can return to more in-person activities. Just incase she says that they are planning to at least one, possibly two more cooking challenges for the spring, that will encourage kids to make their own food.
“We want to start them young. We want them to feel empowered to make their own food from scratch and to develop their palate,” she said. “That there is a lot out there to try and a lot of it food that they can grow out of the ground. Hopefully by the time they get to college, they know they can be self-sufficient with cooking.”
Fore more information on SHIP and all of its clubs and programs, go to the WJCC website.