When an afterschool cooking and nutrition (CAN) program was announced at Swanson Road Intermediate School, applications flooded the front office. Based primarily on kitchen space, 14 grade 4 students were selected, and the program started on March 27th and will run for 7 weeks. Right before the spring break, the young chefs gathered in the SWIS courtyard to accept the ceremonial check from the New England Dairy and Food Council that awarded Auburn Food Services a grant of $674 to develop the program.

Dorothy Kauffman, Janice King, Jamie Nikopoulos and Susan Lopez join the young chefs as they celebrate the grant from the New England Dairy and Food Council. Photo by John R. Anderson

APS Food Services Director Janice King told Auburn Mass Daily, “Our students are having a great time! What we have observed is that students are very interested in learning about food and nutrition and how it is fun to cook! Yesterday (Monday) we featured a class on pizza, Italy and the regions of the country that engaged all our 4th grade students in the many ways that pizza is so much more than cheese and pepperoni. We feature food safety, culinary techniques, nutrition and health, and gardening. Right now students are growing basil plants!”

The District wrote, “This program’s goal is to increase access to and participation in strategies that support awareness of healthy eating, to promote individualized cooking skills and to have fun with making healthy food choices!” The pilot program is coordinated by Jamie Nikopoulos, Janice King and Dorothy Kauffman, and the goal is to bring a similar program to the other elementary schools as well.

Jamie Nikopoulos, a SWIS guidance counselor who also serves on the District’s wellness committee, oversees the weekly sessions and said, “The kids are great. It’s an interesting mix of students.” Asked about her enjoyment doing this, she said, “Getting to connect with students I don’t usually meet with. Their creativity is great, and seeing others get excited is contagious.”

To get the true value of a program with children, it’s really useful to speak with them directly. Nora Stealy told us, “I like that you can learn about new foods. I love to cook.” Krystian Baczek shared, “It’s pretty nice because you get to learn how to make different kinds of food. Appetizers are probably my favorite kind of food.”

Maddy Kauffman said, “I just like that we get to cook, and I hope to be able to cook at home. I really like dessert.” Cohen Champagne wrapped up the interviews, “I like that we’re able to experience new food. I made cinnamon and sugar crepes topped with blueberries, strawberries and whipped cream.” When asked if he was interesting in cooking as a career, Cohen said, “I have some interest in cooking as a career, but only after playing a pro sport.” It’s wonderful to think big.