When it came time for Helen Ruckes, a high school senior from Orange, to go for her Girl Scout Gold Award, she knew exactly where she wanted to start: with teaching children about healthy eating.
The Gold Award, the highest achievable to Girl Scouts, challenges girls to change the world, or at least their corner of it. Through the seven-step project, girls will have solved a community problem, not only in the short term, but for years into the future. They are required to identify an issue, investigate it thoroughly, get help and build a team, create a plan, present a plan and gather feedback, take action, and educate and inspire.
And that’s exactly what Helen did.
“Kids are constantly eating bags of chips, popcorn and other unhealthy foods and it’s a big problem. I know much of it is because of money in some homes, but it’s also because kids just don’t know how to prepare healthy foods.”
With Joselyn Eagle was as her cooking and food preparation assistant and support from Myra Napier, Peck’s 21st Century Site Manager, organized a series of cooking classes after school at Peck Place. Working with five to seven girls, she taught them how to incorporate different fruits and vegetables into their meals. They made mint and fruit smoothies and raisin ginger breakfast snacks.
“Together, we cooked six different snacks and meals. Each day, we used a different color fruit or vegetable, starting with red and then going through the colors of the rainbow,” Ruckes explains.
Each Tuesday for six weeks, the girls and Helen brainstormed ideas about healthy choices, and voted on a food to try the following week.
“They learned how to crack eggs, grate zucchini and roll out dough. They learned about keeping clean surfaces, and what steps are involved in cooking. When the food was baking, we played games,” she says.
“I think it was a success because we got the kids to try many different healthy options. Raisins weren’t a big hit but, they were into trying new things—much more than I thought!” she says.
The girls weren’t the only ones to learn through the program, Helen learned too.
“I learned about time management and cooperation, and about how to speak in front of a group,” she says. “I also learned that when the girls bring home the recipes, it’s an opportunity to bond at home with their parents or guardians in the kitchen.”
After she graduates from Amity next year, Helen plans to go to college for nursing.
By Melissa Nicefaro – Orange Town News Correspondant