March 22, 2017 - 2:01pm --

Christy Clary, Extension Educator 4-H Youth Development

The 4th H in 4-H stands for Health and we pledge our Health to better living. On Saturday March 6th, utilizing the Eastern Brown High School foods lab, a group of sixteen 4-H’ers in Brown County did just that at the C.H.E.F. Day Camp. C.H.E.F. stands for Cultivating Healthy Eating Fanatics and was a chance for youth to get hands-on experience in the kitchen.

Though food and nutrition was the focus of the day, the day started by discussing the importance of physical activity and reducing our stress. Theresa Ferrari, an OSU Extension Specialist for Healthy Living with the Ohio 4-H program, opened the discussion on physical activity and then led the youth on a short 4-H Yoga routine.

The rest of the morning was spent covering safe food handling, nutrition guidelines, budgeting, and meal planning. Youth were split into small groups and charged with planning a menu for the day including breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack with two requirements: meeting the MyPlate guidelines set by USDA and using a budget of $30 for a family of four. Christi Rockey, 4-H Volunteer and Foods Department Superintendent, covered portion sizes using measurements, but also how to estimate portion sizes with your hands. “Teaching them to judge portion sizes with their hands gives them a tool they can use anywhere” said Rockey. “Most restaurant portions are easily three to four times what is recommended.” 

After menus were planned, groups then had to select lunch or dinner to cook. They were given a meal budget of $15, a Kroger sales ad, and a list of provided pantry items to further aid in planning their meal. Following lunch and an overview of what to look for in the grocery store, participants loaded on a bus and went to Kroger. Upon arrival, manager Brent Wilson met with the youth, who were armed with their shopping lists, and gave them a quick introduction to the store and Kroger in general.

Participants then shopped in small groups to gather all the supplies they needed. After checking out and being over budget, 14-year-old Caitlyn Wills said “I learned how to read a label; you have to look at the total price, not just per pound.” Wills’ team had to regroup and adjust their menu to a different cut of meat to reduce their budget. Another group quickly learned the importance of using their store loyalty card; they went from being $6 over budget, to under budget, after a visit to the customer service desk.

Before leaving Kroger, Wilson met with the group again to ask about their experience. Not to miss an opportunity, Wilson also told them to remember that when they turn 16 he is hiring. When asked what skills he was looking for in employees, Wilson said “A smile; I can teach other things, but I can’t teach you to smile.” 

Upon returning to the school, the group covered proper table settings and watched a video on knife skills. The highlight of the day followed with the C.H.E.F. cooking showdown. Participants were given 45 minutes to cook their meals. Menus included chicken salad with pasta and alfredo sauce, rosemary pork chops with asparagus and pickled peppers, chicken cordon bacon, and several variations on fruit smoothies. Jarrett Ingle, 15, was a part of the group who attempted pork chops. Ingle said, “I learned I have to work on my time management, my pork chops weren’t done on time. I also learned to make sure I am clear at the meat counter when ordering, these were bigger than I thought.”

After cooking was, of course, the chance to sample all the great dishes. Groups received feedback about taste, presentation, portion size, and adherence to MyPlate recommendations. Ferrari told the youth they could cook for her anytime. The participants were challenged to try foods from other groups, even if they didn’t think they would like the options. Ferrari said, “Sometimes you don’t know if you like something until you try it, and part of getting kids to eat healthy is exposing them to different foods.”

After sampling, the participants got a crash course in Dishes 101 before cleaning up the kitchen. Rockey said, “You eat, you clean!” Parents were starting to arrive as this lesson was taking place, and laughed as they said now they can’t claim they don’t know how to do dishes.

At the end of the day, all the participants were asked to share about their experience. Cayden Wills, 9, was most excited about the fact that he “learned how to use a knife.” One of the oldest participants shared, “I actually cooked something. I had never done anything more than microwave before.” All of the participants said they felt they could cook at least part of a meal in the future.

“Tying all of these skills together from planning a budget and good nutrition, success at the grocery and the reality of preparation and cleanup has become a lost art. C.H.E.F is a chance to acquire those Family and Consumer Science skills that these youth will need throughout their adulthood,” said Rockey.

C.H.E.F. was made possible by a grant from the Ohio 4-H Foundation, Brown County 4-H Committee, and Eastern Brown High School.

The 4-H program is part of the Ohio State University Extension services. For more information on the 4-H program and how to get involved, contact the Brown County OSU Extension office at 937-378-6716. You can also find more information on the website or follow Brown County 4-H on Facebook at