(09/24/20) NEW ORLEANS — While some students have struggled to find virtual projects to be involved with during the COVID-19 pandemic, that is not the case for some New Orleans 4-H’ers.
Junior high and high school students in the city are learning skills from cooking nutritious meals to learning about problems caused by water pollution.
LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Alisha Okoro said she started a chef club for elementary to junior high students to give her younger members some skills that will be useful in the future.
“Since it’s a little difficult for us to do programming in the schools, I decided to start a chef club to get the students involved,” Okoro said. “Our program is more about education than competition.”
The goals of the program are to help the youth learn about and prepare healthy snacks and foods.
“We also want them to learn to make decisions and take steps to positively affect their health,” she said. “We’re hoping they will practice a healthy lifestyle and share what they have learned with their families and others.”
New Orleans has had 4-H chef clubs before, but they haven’t been active for a while, so Okoro felt it was time to bring them back.
“I have a friend, Delisa Lloyd, who was a cafeteria manager in Orleans at one of the schools, and she loves to cook and has all of the cooking gadgets,” she said. “So I asked her if she would be the club leader, and she agreed.”
The club meets the second Saturday of each month, and at their first meeting, the 4-H’ers made smoothies.
At future meetings they will be cooking fresh vegetables, spinach pizza and other items they may not be familiar with.
Okoro said she has contacted Delgado Community College about collaborating, and they have agreed to bring the youth there to see what Delgado offers in culinary skills.
Derek Landrum, also a 4-H agent in Orleans Parish, is taking a different approach with his 4-H’ers by getting them involved in the outdoors.
“In our high school 4-H Club at New Harmony High School, I am working with their Outdoor Adventures PE class where they are discussing topics related to wilderness and land use,” Landrum said. “When I met with them last, we went over the Wilderness Act of 1964 and then did a Rules of Wilderness Gameshow on Kahoot that had them answering questions about what was and was not allowed in designated wilderness areas. This was all done over Zoom, and the kids really enjoyed the game.”
Landrum is preparing another virtual lesson for his upcoming meeting with the 4-H Junior Leader group.
“Part of the lesson is going to involve a scavenger hunt in their homes, where I will have them find the object in their house that they think will take the longest to biodegrade. I am interested to see what the kids come up with,” he said. “I am also prepping a Jeopardy-style game show, where they will have to answer questions about the environment and wetlands.”
Because it is difficult to meet in person with some of the clubs right now, Landrum is doing his best to make the virtual activities engaging.
“We try to play games, have them get up and move around, and use stuff they can find in their house,” he said. “I find this keeps the kids more engaged than just talking at them. It isn’t what we normally do in 4-H, but we are adapting.”
Orleans Parish 4-H Teen Ambassador Tyler Okoro assists 4-H’er Jace McGee in cutting fresh pineapple to make a fruit smoothie. They are members of the Orleans Parish 4-H Chef Club that meets the second Saturday of each month to explore healthy foods and to try out their culinary skills. Photo by Alisha Okoro/LSU AgCenter
Orleans Parish 4-H Junior Leaders pick up trash as part of an outdoors service project at City Park as a way to help keep the park clean. This is one of the many projects the group has tackled during the pandemic. Participants are, from left, Junior Leaders Club leader Mary Johns, Moriah Dunn and LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Derek Landrum. Photo by Alisha Okoro/LSU AgCenter