David Ball

For The Record

Parents and guardians, tell your kids there’s a great, big world out there to discover and there’s more to do than just look at a television screen, a computer screen or a cellphone screen this summer.

In fact, the Texas A&M AgriLIfe Extension Center Orange County is here to help.

Fallon Foster, county extension agent for family and community health, said there are several programs this summer with the Youth Cooking Camp being the first and the largest attended. Registration for the programs starts May 1 and is online at orange.agrilife.org by selecting the program tab of interest. Those without computer access may call the office at 409-882-7010. The camp will be from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 11-15 for ages 8-14 at the Orange County Expo Center, 11475 FM 1442 in Orange. Cost is $45 per child, limited scholarships are available.

The program started with Orange County in 2014 for 4-H and different youth programs for the summer.

It only took nine hours for 60 kids to sign up in all of the slots with 30 on the waiting list this year. Sixty is the cutoff number because they can’t take more than that number.

“It’s very hands-on learning,” Foster said. “It takes a lot of manpower to put on. They’ll cook 24 recipes, eight per day, over three days. The fourth day is the food challenge.”

For the food challenge, the students won’t know what the ingredients will be and they will work together to cook their dish. A group of judges will sample the food, ask the students questions and do a score sheet. The parents will be invited and those who excel will be recognized for awards day.

Students will also learn about food and nutrition, how to properly cut with a knife in the food safety room, the importance of washing hands and learning some science. Another part of the program is cooking more difficult recipes, for instance, gumbo, last year. Another program is teaching the students about 4-H.

“It takes a lot of volunteers to show up to make this work,” she said. “There’s only five of us in the extension office. We rely on on master gardeners, Lamar State College-Orange nursing department and dietetic interns from Lamar University. Our food inspector, James Scales, takes vacation time off so he can help.”

There are some familiar faces at the Youth Cooking Camp and some new ones too. The camp lets a student attend two years in a row then step down so others can get a break and attend. Attendance is split evenly between the number of girls and the number of boys who attend.

“Our first cooking camp started with 15 kids and they were my guinea pigs. We moved it to the ballroom the next year because we grew to 50 kids. We can’t push it past 60,” Foster said. “We keep five kids at the tables because they still need some guidance.”

This year’s theme is American food along with some Italian food and some variety food. In the past they had themes such as Southern, Cajun, Asian, Mexican and potluck.

The kids will learn about healthy and nutritious foods too. In the past they have made a zucchini boats and poblano peppers.

“If they cook it they will eat it,” she said. “The kids eat all day and they can box the leftovers.”

The way the cooking is set up is the kids are given the basics to cook. They are given three fake dollars to buy additional ingredients from a pantry to doctor it up.

Other programs this summer are:

• The third annual Michael Hoke Memorial Outdoor Awareness for Kids from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. June 21 at Claiborne West Park in Vidor. The program is free. The deadline to register is June 8 online or by calling the AgriLife office.

• Good Table Manners, “Please” and “Thank you” along with Etiquette will be from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 16-18 at the Expo Center. Registration will open June 1. The cost is $10 per child with lunch provided. It’s open to age 8-18.

• The Youth Canning Class will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 19 for ages 8-14. The cost will be $25 per child. Students will be canning strawberry jam and making homemade bread.

• Sewing 101 for beginners only will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 23-25. The cost is $20 per person. Kids will bring their own lunch and drink.

• The last program for the summer will be Clover Kids Camp from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. July 31 to August 2 for ages 5-8. The cost is $25 per person.

The youth will have hands-on cooking, sewing, robotics and science.