Healthy Cooking Grows Healthy Kids and Communities

“My dad is excited because he doesn’t like cooking and I told him I would now be cooking dinner occasionally.”— 7th grader, Kismira Bencich

Kids in the Kitchen after school cooking class at Estacada Middle School.

“How many food groups are there?” “Five,” a chorus of nine enthusiastic Estacada Middle School students reply.  “And how many should we have in a dish to make it healthy?’ “Three,” the students reply. “But five would make it extra healthy,” adds Bella Williams, a 6th grader at the Middle School.

The Kids in the Kitchen after school cooking program guides students towards a path of lifelong healthy food choices, including the way they view, eat, and prepare food. All Kids in the Kitchen recipes come from, an OSU social marketing campaign created to help limited income Oregonians improve their health through increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.  Food Hero recipes have been tested at the OSU Campus to ensure they are tasty, healthy, affordable, easy-to-make and kid-friendly. 

There is a true sense of pride and camaraderie at the table as the students enjoy the meal they prepared together.  “My greatest satisfaction is seeing the students feel empowered and wanting to take the lessons they have learned home, as well as watching them make friends in the class,” said Elena Illescas, program assistant with the Family and Community Health Program. 

OSU Extension Service offers Kids in the Kitchen classes to Clackamas County Schools with a high rate of Free and Reduced Meals (over 50%), and with the support of qualifying partner agencies.  The website,, shares a wide variety of family and budget friendly, step-by-step recipes and videos for anyone wanting to expand on their family food options.

(From left to right) Chloe Cooper, Elena Illescas, Erin Devlin and Bella Williams prepare a recipe.