Children cooking, gardening? No problem here.

Published 6:00 am Sunday, October 18, 2015

Oxford children are taking cooking and gardening skills home with them thanks to a local club’s efforts.

FoodCorps operates a cooking and gardening club to give local children a chance to learn about cooking nutritious meals as well as where nutritious food comes from.

FoodCorp Service Member Ashley Ingram, 22, said, “I hope to have the kids try new, healthy foods, find a hobby in growing their own food, are exposed to local foods and understand what real food is.”

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FoodCorps leaders are currently partnering with Lafayette County schools and the surrounding community through the Boys & Girls Club to provide students with the classes.

Wednesday afternoons the students can work in the garden outside behind the club. Ingram said they are working on renovating the area by planting vegetables, herbs and fruit. She also has plans to include an outdoor class area in the future.

“Myself, volunteer Caroline Battle and Ben Pinon, chef and volunteer of the food club, lesson plan every week to prepare for food club. Depending on what we will make that week, we decide how group management will go,” Ingram said.

She usually breaks the club into two groups. Each group will cut vegetables or do other odd jobs in the kitchen.

“Top chef is awarded to the student who has the best behavior during the lesson,” she said. “Usually they are very helpful and go above and beyond in the club. The top chef is recognized by the club, gets to wear the apron during the entire lesson, and can move their chef hat under the top chef signage we have in the kitchen.”

Samaria Cancer, 10, is the most recent top chef. She said she earned top chef because she was careful and listened, but also because she did not eat the food they were cooking without permission.

Food club currently works with 22 students and has more on a waiting list to be involved. The program involves three pillars of knowledge to teach children both basic and advanced cooking skills, kitchen equipment techniques, knife skills, table etiquette as well as others, and gives students the opportunity to fellowship, prepare meals to show appreciation for community members, fundraise for the Boys & Girls Club of Oxford, and donate to other causes.

Ingram said she hopes the students take what they are learning home to their families and practice cooking at home. She also hopes they will learn to make the connection between the food they consume and their health and wellness.

Ingram said her favorite part about teaching and working with the children is the fellowship. She said the children are growing together as a family and she loves to join them around the kitchen table to talk about their days and eating good food.

When Ingram originally applied with the organization, she interviewed for a position with the Mississippi Sustainable Agriculture Network service site and was selected to serve in Oxford.

“I fell in love with the mission of Food Corps and thought it would be a great way to marry my two passions of working with youth and working in the agricultural industry,” said the Ohio State University graduate who earned a Bachelors of Science in Agriculture-Animal Science and a minor in Public Health.

Ingram said she would like to see more people get involved with the clubs. The garden club is Wednesdays from 3 until 4 p.m. and the community workdays are Saturday and Nov. 14, from 9 a.m. until noon.

“Food club is bringing the kids together as a community so they too can play a role in this movement,” Ingram said.