Mamadou Diarra scoops cookie dough onto a baking sheet at Kent elementary school.

Learning to love super foods in Fraser Valley schools

Volunteers at Kent and Harrison elementary schools are helping expose children to healthier options

Creating a delicious snack from nutritious ingredients is an art form, mixed with a dash of chemistry and a pinch of good luck.

But it’s also a skill that not everyone has mastered, thanks in part to an influx of pre-packaged treats and meals so readily available.

But some students at Kent and Harrison Hot Springs elementary schools have been learning how to roll up their sleeves, and dive into a healthier diet.

At Kent last week, that meant creating a fresh batch of Super Food Cookies — made with local eggs, local flour, chia seeds, flax and dark chocolate.

They measured the flour, and mixed the eggs. They scooped the butter and scraped the bowls.

But most importantly, they learned a few things about healthy eating. The class is led by two volunteers from the community, Miel Bernstein and Carmen Swaine.

Both are trained culinary experts, and mothers, who decided to go into local schools as a way to introduce children to healthier food options. They have visited Harrison elementary regularly, and have just started visiting Kent elementary.

On Friday morning, Bernstein brought in a few different types of flour for the kids to smell, commercial flour and fresh local flour.

“But how different could the two smell?” the kids wondered.

The answer: Very different. While the commercial flour had a stale, “off” smell, the fresh ground flour filled the room with the smell of warm, baked bread.

And while not all the kids appreciated the difference — and some even preferred the familiar smell of commercial flour — the idea behind the program is simply to introduce healthier options. And Bertnstein and Swaine’s hope is that with enough exposure to these foods, they’ll eventually chose healthier options.

“Our thought is you plant the seed with the kids,” Swaine said.

But there is no budget for the program, and it runs entirely on donations from the community and the two women’s pantries. They’ve had donations come in from bumper crops, and even the wheat they used in their Super Food Cookies came from one of the school’s teacher’s local farms.

They are hoping for more donations to come, in the form of cash to buy healthy ingredients, or for equipment that could be used.

For the cookies, they used the donated wheat, and a brand new mixing stand donated by a parent.

As the kids sat a roundtable in the hallway, waiting for their cookies to bake, they talked about other healthy snack options.

They learned that a good mix of coloured vegetables and fruits will offer up many of the vitamins their bodies need in a day. They learned that not all fat is bad fat, and almonds and other nuts are a good source of healthy fats.

But they also learned about super foods, a lesson that many Canadians are starting to pay attention to, as well.

Things like blueberries that provide antioxidants are super foods.

And the cookies they just made, that were just about ready, were filled with super foods — three of them.

Chia seeds, flax seeds and even the dark chocolate, all have health benefits and are easy to put into things like cookies, muffins, and even smoothies.

So, did the kids like their Super Food Cookies? On this day, not so much.

While a couple gobbled their cookies up, the others pushed the cookies around their plates, unsure of what to do with them. It turns out something wasn’t measured right, somewhere along the way.

But that’s all part of the learning, a part of science, and all part of mastering the culinary arts.

news@ahobserver.com