BAC Fighter Marie Engages Students in Safe Cooking

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Marie Canesi is a culinary teacher at the League School of Greater Boston. The school’s mission is “to help students with Autism develop to their fullest potential in every aspect of their lives; social, emotional, academic, and behavioral.”

For the past eight years Marie has been in the kitchen with her students, teaching them how to keep a balanced diet and prepare food safely. Each week she sees about 70 students of all ages, from three years old to 22 years old.

Marie has always tried to show her students the importance of basic food safety behaviors, such as handwashing, but they need reminders about why those behaviors are so important.

The perfect opportunity

When Marie attended the 2021 Consumer Food Safety Education Virtual Conference, she heard about a unique chance for her students to engage in food safety behaviors: a recipe challenge!

The Young Cooks Recipe Challenge seemed like the perfect opportunity for Marie’s students to engage in cooking while learning about and practicing food safety behaviors. Marie felt it was also valuable for her students to hear about food safety from a source other than her. She wanted to help them understand why safe food handling is so important to staying healthy. Marie decided that the recipe challenge would be “a cool thing for her students to try.”

Food safety and recipe creation

The Partnership for Food Safety Education hosted the Young Cooks Recipe Challenge from March 22 to May 3, 2021. Students in grades 1 through 12 were encouraged to build their own healthy lunch recipes that included basic food safety steps from the Safe Recipe Style Guide.

The challenge was a fun way to encourage students to practice food safety and eat healthy foods. The recipes entered in the challenge were required to include food safety steps as well as two different healthy ingredients from the following categories: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.

Enjoyable recipe-writing activity

Marie started the challenge by approaching a few of her students, the ones she knew really loved to cook. She said the kids she approached “just lit up” when she began talking to them about the challenge. This activity would be their first one back in the kitchen since the beginning of the COVD-19 pandemic, and they were excited to cook in the classroom again.

The students began the process by sitting down with Marie and discussing what recipe they thought they wanted to try. Then they tested their recipe in the kitchen. The first time they tested their recipes they shared them with the class for a taste test and offered each other suggestions for improving the recipe. Then, they prepared it a second time and typed up their recipes with basic food safety steps to enter the challenge.

Marie Canesi preparing dinner for residential students (courtesy League School of Greater Boston)

The students had fun, and in the end, they submitted two recipes from Marie’s classes and one from another teacher’s class. Marie is proud of her students no matter what the results of the contest.

“I think they did a great job, and I want to acknowledge them,” Marie said.

Advice for educators

Marie offered her advice on teaching food safety in the classroom.

“There are lots of wonderful tools available, and people should get familiar with the Partnership and their tools. There are different activities and tools to appeal to kids at different levels,” she said. “I highly recommend that educators attend the next Consumer Food Safety Education Conference, and learn about all the tools and resources available.”

Katie Weston is the Community Engagement Manager with the Partnership for Food Safety Education. She can be contacted at kweston@fightbac.org.