Kids a Cookin' stirring up good nutrition, fun in the kitchen
By Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension
Once every week for nearly a year, Karen Arnold and several Kansas kids have invited Kansas television viewers into the kitchen.
Arnold is the host of the weekly television show called Kids a Cookin', "Where cooking is fun," she tells viewers at the start of each episode.
The show made its debut July 1, 2002, and is now syndicated on six television stations in Kansas.
In the show, Arnold helps kids make a food item, then the two of them sit and eat (or drink) it. Nutritionists from Kansas State University choose the recipes used on the show based on nutritional quality, simplicity and seasonality. Foods also are chosen because they are fun to make, great to taste, and meet the show's educational objective of teaching healthy food choices.
Since its first show, Arnold and her pint-sized guest cooks have made pocket fruit pies, Farmers Market salsa, creamy dip for vegetables, peanut butter roll-ups, tortillas, fruit pizza, pretzels and more.
Arnold says that while the show makes cooking fun for kids, it may also increase together time for parents and their children.
"Parents and kids need activities they can do together," she said. "An activity like cooking is even better when it's done together. It gives kids a sense of pride and accomplishment. These are basic
cooking skills that they'll use forever and hopefully help them to make better food choices."
Kids a Cookin' is a project produced by the Family Nutrition Program at Kansas State University. Full-time, professional staff from Extension and the Educational Communications Center produce the show, with production and marketing support from K-State students. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food stamp education program through a grant from Kansas Social and Rehabilitation Services, and targets limited income individuals and families. The show's goal is to provide tips on good nutrition, choosing healthy foods and food safety.
All of the children featured as on-camera cooks were chosen following auditions last spring at the Kansas Regents Educational Communications Center on the K-State campus, where the show is videotaped. The kids on the show range in age from 7 to 12 years of age.
The weekly cooking segments are two and one-half minutes long and are designed to "fit nicely with a television station's soft news programming," said Ron Frank, the show's executive producer and one of its creators. Frank is coordinator of the television unit for K-State Research and Extension's Department of Communications.
Arnold is something of a natural for the program, said Frank, who cited her friendly personality and ability to help kids feel at ease in front of bright studio lights and large television cameras. Plus,
Arnold, a mother of four from Topeka, has cooked for her own kids and has been the director of a childcare center for many years.
"Karen's resume is jam-packed with kid-style experience," Frank says. "That's why she's the host of Kids a Cookin'."
Says Arnold: "Kids have a natural desire to explore, and what better place to do that than in the kitchen. So many things can be learned in the kitchen, such as following step-by-step directions. Even small children can learn to push the buttons in order on the microwave."
Kids a Cookin' is broadcast at 7:10 a.m. Wednesdays on Channel 6 Dodge City; 6:10 a.m. Wednesdays on Channel 10 Goodland; 7:10 a.m. Wednesdays on Channel 7 Hays; 5:45 to 6:30 a.m. Wednesdays on Channel 7 Pittsburg; 5 to 5:30 p.m. Fridays on Channel 49 Topeka; and 7:10 a.m. Wednesdays on Channel 12 Wichita.
Photos: (Above left) Eight-year-old Matt Riley, Plainville, makes 'Tropical Fruit Dip' during a recent taping session of Kids a Cookin' in K-State's Dole Hall. The show's host, Karen Arnold, looks on.
(Right) Eleven-year-old Ashlee Torres, Garden City, prepares 'Eggs in a Bread Basket' with Kids a Cookin' host Karen Arnold.
Photos courtesy Pat Melgares.