Life Long Learning Centers Afterschool Program-Cooking Matters (Caroline FY18 and Beyond) Annual

Story Behind the Curve
Program Summary

A comprehensive afterschool and parenting education program at three sites (two middle schools and one elementary school) will include a locally designed basic life skills curriculum that focuses on four areas directly related to nutrition, health and cooking. These include:

  • Math & Economics: You have Bills to Pay and You Need To Eat – Learning to do both on a Budget (16; 45 minute classes)
  • Food Science & Biology: the science in growing and preparing food (16; 45 minutes classes)
  • Nutrition & Health: All Foods are Not Created Equal – Learning to Read Nutrition Labels and More (16;-45 min classes)
  • Cooking Matters: What We Buy, How We Prepare It and How We Store It Makes A Difference –Classes will include store tour, farm tours, kitchen boot camp (food safety), canning & freezing.

Additionally, the program will provide a variety of health and wellness enrichment activities.

Target Population

Targeting youth age 5-14 in the After School Program identified as living in food insecure homes (FaRM eligible) and the youth’s parent/caregiver at Federalsburg Elementary School and Colonel Richardson and Lockerman Middle Schools

Data Discussion

End of FY19:

The Lifelong Learning Center (LLC) Afterschool Program operated between September 24 and May 9 at Colonel Richardson Middle School (CRMS), Lockerman Middle School (LMS), and Federalsburg Elementary School (FES). Programs at LMS and FES operated for the planned 90 days plus one additional day to accommodate a field trip. The CRMS program operated for 88 days overall, losing one day to a campus-wide power outage that cancelled school for the day and another to widespread staff sickness that caused inadequate coverage.

Dependent on staffing, LLC programs seek to enroll between 60 and 75 students per site and serve a total of at least 250 students over the course of the year. During the course of the year, 71 students attended at FES, 67 attended at CRMS, and 85 attended at LMS, for a total of 223 students (89% of the target enrollment). An additional 20 students attended for less that 4 days and are not traditionally included in quarterly reporting. Adding those students back in would push the program up to 97% of its target enrollment. One hundred fifty-six students attended for at least 30 days, which represents 64% of all students (or 70% of those attending at least 4 days). Both a short recruiting timeframe at the beginning of the year and a long break over the winter holidays played a factor in the number of students the program was able to enroll and keep engaged on a regular basis. In the future, the calendar will be less spread out so that the program has better continuity.

Just 27 parents attended Cooking Matters workshop throughout the year. However, an additional 25 parents either turned in registration forms or verbally committed during phone conversations yet did not end up attending. Several families were unable to attend due to illness, and even some families that did attend were unable to come to every workshop due to having conflicting commitments. Poor and irregular attendance not only impacted the ability to provide a comprehensive series of workshops, but also hampered the solicitation of meaningful feedback from the participants. Families that did attend showed high levels of engagement and many were interested in repeating the workshops when they were offered again later in the year.

Of the students that participate in LLC programs, at least 80% should be eligible for or receiving free or reduced meals. Overall, 81% (163 out of 202 parents providing data) of the total number of students attending LLC programs during the year receive free or reduced meals (FaRM). Ninety-one percent of the students in the program at FES are FaRM recipients, with the numbers dropping to 83% at CRMS and 70% at LMS. While the goal of this program is to serve as high a number of FaRM recipients as possible there is one very clear barrier to this. FaRM information is highly confidential, so students cannot be targeted for enrollment based on FaRM status alone. Only the Nutrition Division of Caroline County Public Schools (CCPS) has individual access to FaRM eligibility information. Even school principals cannot have access to this information. Therefore, students are recruited to LLC programs based on school and

parent referrals. School staff are encouraged to refer students who are facing challenges at home that may include or may cause food insecurities.

Partners

In addition to serving as the main instructors of Cooking Matters (which will be discussed at length in What Works), Chef David Murray of the Chesapeake Culinary Center and Ashley McLaughlin of the University of Maryland’s local 4-H Extension office both helped provide programming throughout the year. For McLaughlin, this came in the form of ReFresh, which is a cross-curricular approach to nutrition education that makes connections to math, science, and language arts. She also supported the LMS program in growing vegetables in their planter boxes in the fall. Over the final five weeks of the program, Chef David provided lessons twice- weekly to the fifth graders at FES leading in to the annual Community Dinner, which serves as both an end of the year celebration as well as a showcase of the afterschool program for local legislators and other members of the community.

The middle school programs were finally able to take advantage of mini-grants offered through the Caroline County Health Department to fund anti-smoking and juuling activities. The programs were praised for the quality of the student-centered activities that were funded, from an educational scavenger hunt and games at CRMS to a poster contest and short film PSA production at LMS. These activities allowed students to explore ever-increasing threats to their health in an engaging way. In addition, CCHD staff Heather Grove and Wayne Farrare were on hand at special events throughout the year to speak directly with students and their families about vaping and juuling, with many parents being exposed to the exponentially growing trends for the first time. Whether it was conversations centered around mental health or smoking/vaping/juuling products, students in the afterschool programs impressed partners from the outside with their openness and willingness to discuss such issues.

The LMS program has continued to strengthen their connection with the Caroline Career and Technology Center (CCTC). Dennis Hall expanded his scope of work from making birdhouses in the previous year to having the students design and build original projects, including an eight- foot-tall functional windmill and oversized rocking horse. Over the entire program, students made nearly 10 short trips over to CCTC to work directly in the workshop. After a long period of waiting for schedules to align, Jodi Callahan was able to find time to lead some agricultural lessons with students as well as provide lessons from 4-H’s AGsploration curriculum for program staff.

Along with the YMCA of the Chesapeake, the FES program was able to have its largest and most successful Learn to Swim program to date. Forty total students between third and fourth grade were able to take eight trips to the Easton Family YMCA to receive water safety and swimming lessons. Since the program expanded last year to cover fourth graders as well as third, nearly

half of the students that participated were doing so for their second year, which led to even better outcomes. In addition, holding Learn to Swim in the spring near the end of the program drives an increase in attendance at a time that it traditionally falls as the weather improves and spring sports start.

Several partnerships worked together to organize CyberPatriot teams at LMS over the winter months. The local American Legion funded one team, while an additional team was free since it was composed of all girls. OS1 James Gardner, USN (Ret.) provided technical support as well as continued to lead a JROTC club one day a week at LMS. Two school-day teachers from LMS volunteered to help coach the teams, and the Caroline County Public Library provided space, computers, and additional technical support during the competitions (the Library also provided staff to lead a weekly 3D printing club at LMS). The CyperPatriot teams were able to compete three times over the winter due to the synergy between all those individuals and organizations.

What Works

From the outset, students were presented with more choices for supper. Sandwiches were available daily for students that may not like the main course. Salad was also offered daily, along with several different fruits and vegetables. New menu items such as onion rings and sweet potato wedges replaced unpopular and unappealing choices such as taquitos. Even carryover items such as broccoli were prepared in several different ways, including raw, roasted, and topped with cheese. Overall, the quality of meals and student choice were improved from the past, and the responsiveness of the cafeteria staff that prepared the meals had an impact that reached beyond the cafeteria. Something as simple as preparing a slice of pizza every day for an autistic child led to an immediate positive swing in his behavior.

Staff at the middle school sites implemented The Walking Classroom, which is a program that uses podcast-based lesson delivery while students walk a predetermined route around the school or track. Each podcast includes a short health message in addition to its regular content. It has been shown that pairing education with physical activity can have a positive impact on learning, so The Walking Classroom helps keep kids active and engaged while creating an environment that is different (but just as or even more successful) than a traditional classroom. Enthusiasm for the lessons varied at the two sites, but it is also likely that the staff leading those lessons had as much of an impact on the student’s enjoyment as the actual curriculum did.

Three full Cooking Matters sessions were offered throughout the year (a fourth was scheduled but cancelled after one evening due to low enrollment). For each session, there were two weeknight workshops, followed by a double-length workshop on Saturday at the Chesapeake Culinary Center. Recruitment was split between north county (LMS) and south county (FES and CRMS) depending on where the weeknight workshops were held (the Chesapeake Culinary Center for LMS-focused sessions, and Federalsburg Elementary School for FES and CRMS-

focused sessions). Parents and their students participated in separate activities during the week but came together on Saturday to prepare a meal together in the kitchens at the Culinary Center.

On the first evening, parents typically focus on knife skills. They practice on vegetables (onions, celery, and carrots), before later moving on to taking a whole chicken and cutting it down into its main parts (thighs, breasts, wings, and drumsticks). For the fall session, turkeys are substituted for chickens to tie into Thanksgiving. When finished, parents are shown how to use the chicken carcass and some of the vegetables to make a stock. Often, the chicken and vegetables that the parents cut up are later used in the final meal preparation on Saturday. For instance, families will make chicken meatballs and the vegetables will be used in making pasta sauce.

During the second weeknight, parents are led on an off-site tour of a local grocery store, where they learn about unit pricing and explore the differences between fresh, canned, and frozen produce. They are also introduced to lesser-known items such as quinoa that can become a staple of their pantry. They finish the night by taking the $10 challenge where they must build a healthy meal on a tight budget and get to take home the groceries they picked out as a bonus.

While their parents are busy during the weeknights, students work with staff from the afterschool programs to make simple, nutritious snacks that they can prepare at home. In addition to foods that don’t require cooking, like cowboy caviar and fruit trifles, students explored simple recipes that needed to be heated such as carrot and oatmeal cookies, homemade french fries, and crescent roll pizzas. These recipes took kid-favorite items and presented them as healthier alternatives to pre-prepared or fast food items that students can prepare for themselves. In addition to trying new food items, students that attended later in the year were encouraged to experiment when they were tasked with creating their own unique dipping sauces from a table full of ingredients.

While parents and students were kept separate during the week, the Saturday workshops were focused on having families work side by side to prepare a meal. The most common dish made was pasta with chicken meatballs, with parents and students alike learning how to make the pasta from scratch. There were a great variety in side dishes, including seasonal tie-ins like homemade stuffing in the fall, as well as common ingredients being prepared and presented in alternate ways like smashed potatoes. Most groups cut up their own garden salad, as well as mixed their own personal flavors of salad dressing using simple ratios. The final meals included a baked or roasted green vegetable, most commonly broccoli, which was also used in a tutorial to demonstrate the usefulness of blanching. Desserts ranged from pumpkin whipped cream topped with graham crackers in the fall, to seasonal fruit and berry crumbles in the winter and spring. While it was disappointing to have had so many parents and families end up registering but not attend, Cooking Matters found great success engaging with the students and parents that did participate, both separately during the weeknight workshops as well when both groups were brought together to cook on the Saturdays.

Twenty students from LMS, as well as three from CRMS, visited Farming 4 Hunger in southern Maryland on Saturday, May 11. They toured the hydroponic greenhouse where vegetables can be grown in a fraction of the time that they would traditionally be grown in the ground and took a glimpse at the beehive that houses the local pollinators. They also learned about the perils of addiction while standing in front of a massive wall decorated with pictures of those who had been lost to overdoses and other addiction-related causes. While at the farm, students participated in activities that showed them the impact that stress and chaos can have on an individual, and also demonstrated the importance of working together as a team and having a plan. Before leaving, the students heard powerful appeals from inmates from the Department of Corrections who had made mistakes in the past and don’t want youth to travel down the same path that they did when they were younger.

Overall, parents that participated in Cooking Matters reported having the least amount of prior knowledge about purchasing whole meats, as well as saving time and money planning meals. These were two areas that they also reported significant growth in after taking part in the workshops. Despite feeling as though they were well versed in making affordable meal choices for their families going in, they reported the highest growth in that same area as well as making nutritious meals taste great. They reported the lowest growth in reading and understanding nutrition labels, as well as comparatively low growth in food preservation, which are areas that the program can work to address going forward when it returns in the fall.

While having the opportunity to cook with their kids is undoubtedly the highlight of Cooking Matters for many parents, many reported learning new skills or procedures that they would be looking to implement in their kitchens at home. Breaking down poultry themselves was the most common, but several also mentioned making stock (which they could use instead of water to infuse their dishes with more flavor) as well as blanching vegetables (which can help with both presentation as well as preservation).

The following are write-in parent responses/comments from the Cooking Matters post-survey (collected from previous quarterly reports):

  • “[My favorite part was] cooking with my kids and making something new

  • “It is a wonderful program. I love how the adults do their own thing and then come

    together with the children on the last day”

  • “[My favorite part was] going to Walmart and learning about fresh and frozen fruits and

    how to save money.

  • “I just loved that bonding time w/ kids. The kids really enjoyed.”

  • “It is a very good program. The children get to participate and learn about food in a

    friendly and safe environment.”

  • “Please keep program going. This would be an excellent class for new/young parents.”

  • “The staff was very informative. They took a real interest in teaching us. I would

    recommend the program to everyone.”

  • “My favorite part was making the vegetable salad but I do enjoy all the parts of Cooking

    Matters and thank you for teaching me and my child how to prepare healthy food.”

  • “It’s a great thing to spend time with your child and learn new ways to prepare healthy

    & nutritious food.”

  • “It was a good experience to learn ideas of how to cook healthy budget friendly meals.”

  • “My kids really enjoy these programs.”

    During the final week of the program, students were surveyed about their experiences over the course of the year. Seventy-three percent (64/88) felt that they could make good nutrition choices because of what they learned and did during the program. Sixty percent (52/87) tried new foods, and seventy percent (62/88) said they would try to eat more healthy foods going forward. Parents that attended the end of the year open houses or Community Dinner were also invited to complete surveys. Nearly 82% of respondents (18/22) indicated that their child shared nutrition-related facts and practices at home that they learned during the program.
     

    Demographic Information
    *only includes students attending at least 4 days

    1. Total number served this fiscal year: 223

     

    Q1

    Q2

    Q3

    Q4

    Total

    LMS

    62

    74

    70

    56

    85

    CRMS

    50

    61

    52

    38

    67

    FES

    49

    64

    66

    59

    71

    TOTAL

    161

    199

    188

    153

    223

    2. Gender

     

    Q1

    Q2

    Q3

    Q4

    Total

    Male

    72

    91

    98

    79

    108

    Female

    89

    108

    90

    74

    115

    TOTAL

    161

    199

    188

    153

    223

    3. Ages

     

    Q1

    Q2

    Q3

    Q4

    Total

    0-4

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    5-9

    31

    29

    43

    38

    43

    10-12

    78

    98

    96

    79

    108

    13-15

    52

    72

    49

    36

    72

    16-18

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    19+

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    TOTAL

    161

    199

    188

    153

    223

    4. Race

     

    Q1

    Q2

    Q3

    Q4

    Total

    African American

    84

    108

    107

    87

    119

    American Indian

    0

    0

    0

    0

    0

    Asian

    0

    0

    1

    1

    1

    Native Hawaiian / Pacific Islander

    2

    2

    2

    1

    2

    Hispanic

    12

    13

    14

    12

    16

    White

    47

    57

    43

    32

    61

    Multiracial

    16

    19

    21

    20

    24

    TOTAL

    161

    199

    188

    153

     
Scorecard Result Container Indicator Measure Action Actual Value Target Value Tag S R I P PM A m/d/yy m/d/yyyy