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Hempfield Area fans use clicks and texts to cook up new kitchen

| Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, 9:00 p.m.
Winners of a recent “Golden Spoon” competition at Hempfield Area High School were the team of (girls, from left) senior Melinda Kinnan, freshman Cady Kistler, sophomore Sarach Stutchell and (from left) sophomore Judson Shiffler and freshman Nathan Karas. Submitted photo

Sarah Johnson is the first to admit she didn't know how to cook. In fact, she use to be infamous for burning things.

But with the help of the Family and Consumer Sciences Department at Hempfield Area High School, all that has changed.

Now the junior can make everything from cinnamon rolls to chicken dishes.

She would like to learn how to make dishes more efficiently, but that's pretty hard with a 15-year-old microwave.

“It's hard with the technology we have,” she said. “We could improve everybody's knowledge but right now we have 10- to 15-year-old equipment. The school's never been renovated.”

As a result, the department recently entered The Clorox Company's Power a Bright Future program for a $50,000 grant for new state-of-the-art equipment. Hempfield's entry notes that its “one and only kitchen” has some equipment that's 35 years old and shows a photo depicting sad people holding dingy black cookie sheets and other equipment while posing around an old stove.

Through Dec. 19, students and the community have the opportunity to vote once a day online at or via text.

The second top vote-getter will receive a $25,000 grant in the Play, Create and Explore categories.

Earlier this week, Hempfield was in 71st place out of 2,500 applicants. In the space of one day, it had climbed several notches.

“We want to be number one so we're trying to get the word out,” said Sheila Anderson, the department chair. “New technology would make a huge difference in the classroom.”

Anderson said teachers have to move to different rooms to teach and a kitchen overhaul would cut out a lot of busy time and improve actual teaching time.

Hempfield Area offers students 13 different electives in the Family and Consumer Sciences Department, including American Regional Foods, Fast Foods, Specialty Foods and more. The 20 food classes each year instruct between 500 to 600 students on a daily basis.

“Our goal is to give students knowledge and skill to be well-rounded individuals,” said Anderson, who has been a teacher at Hempfield for 21 years. “All of our courses are hands-on skills in the kitchen that emphasize food and kitchen safety and basic food preparation skills.”

Junior Joe Painter has learned how to whip up quick, simple recipes that are nutritious and inexpensive.

Painter said the grant would be used wisely to “absolutely redo the kitchen,” he said.

“It's out of date. The stove is electrical and the microwave is 15 years old,” Painter said.

Painter said his food courses have taught him how to cook when living on his own.

“Winning this grant is a good opportunity for others coming in to have a unique and meaningful experience,” he said.

Michele Stewardson is a freelance writer.