If you walk through the halls of Mexico Middle School on a Thursday after school, your nose will lead you to the old home economics room where our Kids in the Kitchen are cooking up something delicious! Thanks to our Bright Futures Site Council, and several local businesses donations, our MMS Activities Director Dan Foley was able to make his vision a reality.


Mr. Foley recalled, “During a parent-teacher conference night, I happened upon a crock-pot event that our counselor, Mrs. Shopher, was leading with parents and students. I stuck around to observe and came to really enjoy the atmosphere and opportunity it provided for MMS students to learn about cooking. I had a small discussion with Mrs. Shopher to gather more information about the event, and I loved it. My mind was made up! I felt that a cooking club would be a great way to increase student involvement and provide positive, impactful lessons that could be shared at home with their families. Truly, my ability to get this done was only made possible with assistance from Mrs. Shopher, Mr. Schoonover, our principals, Mrs. Haag and Ms. Lower, as well as the generous contributions of Bright Futures here in Mexico.”


To get the Kids in the Kitchen club up and rolling, Dan also elicited the help of the MU Extension’s program. They graciously partnered with us and are providing Nutrition Program Associate Jolene Rodgers to attend Thursday sessions to teach a 20-minute lesson and then coach the students as they prepare a meal.


Lessons have included knife and cutting safety, general nutrition guidelines, and how to incorporate all of the food groups into one meal. Jolene shared, “I’ve truly enjoyed the Kids in the Kitchen program at Mexico Middle School. It’s extremely rewarding helping young men and women as they learn new cooking skills and they are giving the opportunity to make new recipes.”


Student response to enrolling in the program was overwhelming. We had over 100 students turn in enrollment forms on the first day! Unfortunately, we had limited spots available, but the first 40 students that turned in their forms are enjoying learning more about culinary skills every other Thursday after school. We have two groups of 20 students who alternate Thursdays for a total of seven cooking sessions. Recipes are sent home with students and they are encouraged to create the meal with their families at home as well. Dan has been sharing pictures and recipes on the MMS Facebook page for families to enjoy. If you’re interested, check out our page to see them in action.


We couldn’t have this program without the help of volunteer teachers and Bright Futures Site Council members. Special thanks to counselor Darlene Shopher for her help in getting the program logistics set up on the front end and sixth-grade math teacher Tim Schoonover for volunteering his time every Thursday after school for 14 weeks to help coach the kids as they prepare the meals. Community members Joyce Lind and Linda Ahlmann from our Bright Futures Site Council have been volunteering their time as well to help our students work together in a positive manner to cook a meal using all the necessary equipment in the kitchens.


Joyce added, “The kids in the club are fun to work with and get along well. They are willing to do whatever I ask of them when we are cooking and cleaning the dishes and kitchen area. As a volunteer, I decided this was something I could help with and be with the kids doing something they enjoy. Cooking Club is a very positive experience for leaders and kids alike.”


Students from sixth through eighth grade are enjoying the club as they work together to practice the culinary skills and prepare delicious wholesome foods.


Sixth grader Collin Crawford was so excited to get a spot in the program. After making lasagna, he reported, “I really like cooking club because I get to learn how to cook new foods and it’s fun to do with my friends. My favorite dish so far has been lasagna. It was delicious!”


Another sixth grade student, Elijah Luckett, had a similar response, “I like staying after school to cook because I like working with my friends in the kitchen. One of my favorite things to do is cook. It was really cool the right way to hold a knife and cut vegetables too!” We’re so glad so many of our students are learning and practicing this important life skill and having a great time doing it!


Julie Lower is the Mexico Middle School Assistant Principal.