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Whipping up a love for cooking


There was a lot of chopping, dicing and tossing going on at Valleywood Middle School, where students learn culinary basics — and get to taste the results.

Seventh-grader Arianna Cruz holds up her finished salad

Cooking club, an extracurricular activity that’s been offered to sixth-through-eighth graders for more than a decade, brings students together for an hour and 15 minutes to learn to cook, from food prep to finished dish. “I’m a big believer in making things from scratch,” said instructor Cheryl Meyer, a volunteer who loves to cook for her family. “I really want to empower kids so they can make things from scratch, so they can go to the grocery store, look at a recipe and know they can make anything.”

On a recent afternoon, about a dozen students prepared cabbage ramen noodle salad, each challenged with adding their own flair such as apples to add tang, or carrots and broccoli to create a medley of veggies.

There’s a different recipe each session with fried chicken, gravy and biscuits being among the most popular. Students get to take their dishes home. “I do want the kids to know food is a blessing for their friends and families,” Meyer said.

Eighth-grader Mari’azia Broyles wants to be a baker someday and is thinking about launching a cooking vlog. “I’ve learned how to use knives and things the right way, and what not to do. I like cooking!”

Seventh-grader Zachary Kwekel has a personal goal for the class. “One day I hope to make breakfast for my mom.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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