Perspectives Online

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Natalie Cooke: Learning Through Service 

My name is Natalie Cooke, and I’m a senior majoring in biochemistry and nutrition sciences, with a minor in genetics.  

You’re involved in this program called A PACKED Kitchen . . . 

We collaborate with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, and they’ve been providing Share Our Strengths Operation Frontline cooking classes for a couple of years here in the area. And we wanted to get N.C. State students involved in the program, so we collaborated with them, and they give us food because they’re a food rescue program.  

We use the food from the Inter-Faith Food shuttle. We provide the cooking classes, which are six-week classes. They are for participants in the community, and this semester, we’re doing it with Head Start. They are pre-schoolers from age 3 to 5 and their parents. We’re teaching parents and their pre-schoolers to work together as a team.  

The classes are called Side-by-Side. The parents and the pre-schoolers cook side-by-side together. The curriculum is put together by Share Our Strengths, and it’s a great book called Operation Frontline, or the program is called Operation Frontline. One of the great features of the book is each recipe – they’re healthy recipes, low-cost recipes that fit into a budget – and all the recipes have little handprints beside the parts that the pre-schoolers can help out with, so mom or dad knows how to get them involved.  

We try to teach healthy cooking, meal planning, budgeting -- eating on a budget -- and incorporating a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains into the diet. Each class is set up with a nutrition lesson and a cooking lesson, so whatever they cook in the class, we send groceries home with them so they can practice trying out the recipe at home.  

And then we also have a gardening portion. We have a lot about eating local and going to the farmers market, and using that as an option. The classes that we’re teaching are part of Dr. Suzie Goodell’s Nutrition Education in the Community course.  

My focus is the student, so the N.C. State students, where I’ll be entering into the Ph.D. program at State in the fall in nutrition sciences, and my specific focus is preparing nutrition students to go out and be nutrition educators. I would like to teach and also continue service learning as well because I think it’s a great part of using what’s learned in the classroom and actually applying that knowledge.