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Duquesne students learn to cook healthy

| Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2013, 3:56 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Duquesne fifth-graders Daireeus Rainey and Keith Holt take advice from teacher Vanessa Saut and student services coordinator Martina Vitalbo during a Kids Cook session on Tuesday afternoon.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Nutrition educator Rachel Forlifer helps Duquesne fifth-graders Diamond Scott, left, and Jiaunna Cobbs melt cheese on multi-grain tortillas.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Duquesne fifth-grader Damere Dukes chomps into his veggie quesadilla while classmate and partner chef Shawn Mitchell waits for his approval.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Nutrition educator Beth Randles illustrates the food groups represented in a veggie quesadilla recipe during a Tuesday program at Duquesne Education Center.

Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank is teaching youngsters in Duquesne how to choose and prepare healthy foods.

Through Kids Cook, its nutrition education program, the food bank teaches elementary school children how to be independent in the kitchen.

“A lot of kids don't get this information at home or at school,” nutrition educator Rachel Forlifer said. “Nutrition and cooking are important things to learn. If you don't know how to cook, you end up eating processed and often more expensive foods.”

Duquesne student services coordinator Martina Vitalbo said Kids Cook is a “wonderful opportunity for children to understand what healthy food and nutrition looks like and tastes like.”

A classroom of fifth-graders took advantage of that opportunity on Tuesday, putting their cooking skills to the test by sizzling up some veggie quesadillas.

“This is awesome,” student Michael Reese said. “We're mixing apples, broccoli and all kinds of different stuff.”

Classmate Raymyah Pryor said it was interesting to see how creative simple recipes can be.

This one calls for multi-grain tortillas, cheddar cheese, apples, broccoli and tomatoes — intended to represent the My Plate food guideline.

My Plate encourages children to portion their meals with vegetables, protein, whole grains, fruit and dairy products. Nutrition educator Beth Randles said there are endless opportunities for children to creatively fill their plates.

“This is something new that I can try at home,” Raymyah said. “I already cook easy stuff like pancakes, eggs and sloppy joes.”

Randles and Forlifer encouraged students to participate in the “great rainbow race” by listing foods in the categories red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple. They explained that naturally colored foods are rich in a variety of nutrients that help the body develop and operate properly.

“When you eat food, it goes to your belly,” Randles said. “But it's feeding your whole body.”

Vitalbo said students will take Kids Cook lessons with them wherever they go.

“Not only is this a life lesson, but students also are working on the core standards,” Vitalbo said.

Following a recipe combines principles of math, science and reading, with the final product being an edible incentive.

The food bank's Nutrition and Food Safety programs are open to schools and other organizations. More information is available by calling 412-460-3663 ext. 402, or by emailing

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1956, or