Westwood students fired up about cooking

It's Friday afternoon at Westwood middle school, and everyone has left the building. Everyone except the rowdy group in Mrs. Johnstone's cooking lab, that is; a persistent gang of 13 who've been coming since Second Harvest's Drew Meuer began a cooking series here. Meuer and nutrition ambassadors Kylie Pybus and Rebekah Deibler set out bowls of frozen bananas, strawberries, cartons of yogurt and a heaping bowl of kale, which gets a few doubtful glances.  

 

Everyone's excited to try make smoothies, today's recipe de jour, on Second Harvest's Blender Bikes, which are exactly what they sound like – blenders powered by pedals.  

 

"These blender bikes are not like your blender at home," Meuer says, starting a quick lecture on safety. He reminds the class to put on lids before peddling and keep their hands away from the sharp blades.  

 

Then it's time for the fun part- actually making the smoothies. The group is organized into teams for a relay, and each competes to add ingredients the fastest. Laughter fills the room as the students race for the front and shout over each other, each demanding their favorite smoothie fillers.  

 
"Add more bananas!" Steven, one of the students, wants more of the potassium-loaded fruit in his team's recipe, but has to fight for real estate with Sara, who doesn't like bananas. They compromise with a berry mix. Winning teams share their concoctions with the rest of the class.

"I can taste the vitamins in this one," Meuer said of one kale-heavy smoothie.  

 

"I'm asking my mom if we have a blender," said Deanna, one aspiring cook, as she sat at a table after class drinking a smoothie.  

 

Deanna said she loved coming to the seven-week series, offered as part of the school's Summit Program. Summit is a community learning center, designed to complement existing academic programming in areas like English, science, math and recreation. Summit also offers students access to programs like Second Harvest's Bite 2 Go, Mobile Food Bank and free dental screenings and hygiene kits.  

 

"It was active; I made a lot of friends and met new people," Deanna said. As a parting gift, students got wooden spoons, sets of measuring tools and cookbooks filled with recipes they'd made over the course of the class, like roasted cauliflower, pizza and homemade hummus.  

 

Meuer plans to team up with Communities in Schools to start a new series of classes at Shaw Middle School later in the year.