How do I slice a cucumber?

“How do I slice a cucumber?”

“I need ¼ teaspoon but all I have is a ½ teaspoon measuring spoon – what do I do?”

“Can we just make a box of macaroni and cheese?”

Three years ago, those were the questions I heard from some of my Pathfinders while they made dinner at our fall camp. Cooking and sharing food with my fellow Girl Guides has always been one of my favourite parts of Guiding, so I was shocked to find that for many reasons, these girls had little experience planning or cooking healthy and delicious meals.

Teaching youth about food and nutrition means that they will lead healthier lives, and Guiding provides many opportunities to equip girls with this knowledge in fun, exciting ways. Over the past few years, I’ve found that there are a few sure-fire ways to get girls excited about learning how to cook.

  1. Let the girls take charge

If kids and teens are allowed to help choose what food they eat and how they prepare it, they will be much more likely to enjoy their meals at camps or meetings. I started by providing some well-rounded meal ideas for our camp menu, and after a few camps the girls were tweaking recipes and contributing their own ideas. By third year, they were cooking chicken fajitas at camp instead of boxes of macaroni and cheese.

  1. Create real-world experiences

One of the best ways to keep youth engaged is by showing them that what they’re learning is relevant to their own lives. Don’t just talk about cooking and healthy eating – let the girls plan and cook their own camp menus, and let them take the lead on grocery shopping for camp while you show them how to pick out fresh, affordable food at the supermarket. If your unit doesn’t camp, try holding a cooking night at a local church or community centre.

  1. Encourage your unit to get creative
The results of our campfire cooking contest - baked cinnamon raisin apples on a bed of cereal and toasted marshmallows, and sliced apples topped with cereal and marshmallow-infused chocolate.  Mmmmmmm!

The results of our campfire cooking contest – baked cinnamon raisin apples on a bed of cereal and toasted marshmallows, and sliced apples topped with cereal and marshmallow-infused chocolate. Mmmmmmm!

Most importantly, show the girls in your unit that cooking nutritious food can be fun! You’ll be amazed at the ideas they suggest if you encourage them to be creative about cooking and eating their food.  At my unit’s last spring camp, the same girls who once asked me how to slice a cucumber planned their own cooking contest, where two groups got the same ingredients and had to use the campfire to cook a dish that impressed a panel of judges. As you can see, the results were scrumptious!

By guest blogger Stephanie Lett. Stephanie is a Link member living in Ottawa. She is a high school teacher and loves to cook and bake in her spare time.

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