Healthy snacking part of Bower Hill curriculum in Peters Township

Published May 21, 2014 at 6:03 am (Updated May 19, 2014 at 9:41 pm)

The Food Channel may have a national audience, but for the students in kindergarten through third grade at Bower Hill Elementary School in the Peters Township School District, the locally-produced “Snack Scene” is top rated.

Each week, students appeared in the show that revolved around healthy snacks and eating, and culminated in a “Junior Top Chef” competition. Every Wednesday at exactly 3:15 p.m., the show that taped in the morning aired in classrooms throughout the school.

The concept, new for the 2013-14 school year, was the brainchild of Tammi Hanak, speech pathologist at the school, and Meghan Myers, a second-grade teacher, after they attended a conference. Fifteen shows were taped, plus the “Junior Top Chef” episodes. Recipes were submitted by the various grade levels, along with ideas from administrators and teachers.

“We did not have anything that involved using an oven or really sharp knives,” Hanak said. Myers added that the recipes included plenty of fruits and vegetables, with an emphasis on bananas, lots of bananas, Hanak said.

The recipes were complied into a small cookbook entitled “Cooking With Buzzer at Bower Hill Elementary,” based on the school’s mascot, a bee. The subtitle is “Snack Smart, Drink Right, and Move More at Bower Hill.” The school’s PTA is selling the cookbook for $1 with the proceeds going to offset the cost of food for the shows during the 2014-15 school year.

Some of the healthy recipes include graham cracker cheesecakes, a student favorite, Myers said. Preparation is easy and includes mixing one teaspoon of honey and one teaspoon of vanilla with one cup of ricotta cheese. The mixture is spread on cinnamon graham crackers and topped with a sliced strawberry or other fruit. Hanak said once the cooking show featuring the cheesecake recipe aired, she heard that because of the demand, the local Giant Eagle supermarket ran out of ingredients.

“The kids love (the show) and they stop me in the hall and say they made the recipe at home the night before,” Hanak said.

During the next school year, Hanak said they hope to introduce the students to kitchen safety and tie the snacking show with the health curriculum. Another goal is to find a way to air the shows on other venues like the local cable channel or You Tube.

Funding for the 2013-14 school year was through a Just Move grant, Myers said. Because of the success of the program, Hanak said about 100 recipes were submitted, but not used and will be kept for next year’s programs.

In addition to the cooking demonstration show, students were treated to a discussion by a district paraprofessional who is a trained dental hygenist who talked about how snacks and food affect teeth. There were also visits from local dieticians and a fitness professional.

“We wanted to make sure the kids could go home, open the fridge and make their own healthy snack,” Hanak said.

One of the favorites around the holidays was the Grinch Hat Kabobs, where a green grape and a slice of banana are placed on a large toothpick or bamboo skewer followed by a hulled whole strawberry and topped with a mini-marshmallow.

Starting children young on a healthy diet is important. Myers, the mother of a 1-year-old boy, said she makes all of his food.

“Anytime we can get the kids to try different things, that’s awesome,” Hanak said.

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