COLUMBIA, Mo. – With school out for the summer, kids are making more unsupervised choices about the food they eat, often favoring typical summer fare such as hot dogs and ice cream over fresh fruits and vegetables. To help young people make better food choices, University of Missouri Extension 4-H got them in the kitchen with a little competition.
“We have been through a period of fast foods and microwave foods, and this is a way to reconnect them with a cooking experience,” said Jim Ronald, MU Extension 4-H youth specialist and contest coordinator.
More than 30 4-H members from across the state competed in the first Missouri 4-H Junior Iron Chef Contest at State 4-H Congress in Columbia, June 4. Before the competition, the young people, ages 14-18, received a crash course in cooking from Eric Cartwright, executive chef of MU Campus Dining Services.
Cartwright taught the youth how to combine different flavors to create one complex taste and what makes a dish visually appealing. The teenagers practiced their knife skills and learned how to create their own salad dressing. Then they had one hour to develop and prepare a salad from locally grown produce.
“It’s not just about being local. When they can taste the difference of that strawberry or that piece of lettuce it is just remarkable,” Cartwright said.
“Most of the salads were absolutely amazing,” said Louie Conti of St. Charles County. “I just never thought salad could be that good.”
“The research shows that eating fresh is a big part of fighting this problem of obesity, and by teaching people and kids especially how to cook the foods directly, we can get at that problem,” Ronald said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, obesity in young people ages 6-19 has tripled since 1980. Obese children are at a greater risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
The contest was sponsored by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Slow Food Katy Trail and the Missouri 4-H Foundation.
Best of Show
Louie Conti, St. Charles; Dillon Cordia, Washington; Donta Manley, St. Louis; Logan Moore, Ste. Genevieve; Lynette Thiel, Franklin
Dylan Carver, Alexandria Cash and Brittany Haase, Benton
Jenny Blattman and Shelby Chappell, Stoddard; Kelly Jahn and Ashley Stahlman, Cape Girardeau