FARMINGTON — A celebration of healthy eating and good nutrition took place Monday as 105 fourth graders at Cascade Brook School graduated from Cooking Matters.

The year-long series of workshops provides an opportunity for students to “learn life-long good nutritional habits and make positive changes,” Alyce Cavanaugh, school health coordinator and health educator, said.

As part of Cooking Matters, students in the five classes participated in a Fruit and Veggie Challenge and consumed more than 8,000 pieces of fruit and vegetables on school days from October through April, Cavanaugh said.

They all took the challenge seriously but one class, Sarah Carlson’s class, “blew the numbers off the chart” the site where each piece was recorded, she said.

The students were the ones to remind me to mark the chart, Carlson said.

Cavanaugh and Laura Quynn from the Healthy Community Coalition, also a health educator, have worked together on the program, Cooking Matters, for nearly five years.


“Cooking Matters is part of the No Kid Hungry campaign to end childhood hunger in America.  It is a grant funded program that teaches students to shop smarter and use nutritional information to make healthier food choices,” Cavanaugh told the students, parents and guests.

While The Walmart Foundation is the national sponsor of Cooking Matters, Hannaford’s grocery store is a local sponsor and supplied all the foods used during the program and for Monday’s celebration, she said.

The six-week program was adapted and extended over the year for the Cascade Brook students. While Cooking Matter workshops were held once a month, letters were sent home explaining what the students were learning and encouraging activities for students and parents to do to reinforce the classroom teaching.

The students learned how to prepare healthy snacks and why they should bring healthy snacks to school, to make smart food choices, how their personal health behaviors impact their health and future well-being, she said.   They also learned the importance of eating breakfast, how to eat at fast food restaurants, learned about sugar and fats, how to read nutritional labels and how good nutrition leads to higher academic performance, Cavanaugh said.

Students in Amy Tracy’s class “loved the program,” Tracy wrote in a letter to Cavanaugh. 

“I witnessed an increase of awareness in healthy choices and saw many pairs of eyes reading labels of snack packages,” Tracy said. 


One student even read the label of another student’s snack and told him “Dude do you know how much sugar you’re eating right now? You should bring in something else,” she said.

The program is a great opportunity, teacher Sarah Reynolds said as students feasted on a variety of healthy snacks. One of her students had never had a green pepper before, now it is one of their favorite vegetables, she said.

Those presenting the program “go above and beyond” Reynolds said. Some of these children had never looked at a food label.

At the end of the workshops, the students took a field trip to Hannaford’s where they read labels and learned about the store’s Guiding Star program.

They even had a chance for some hands-on learning. 

Making guacamole and salsa was fun according to Diane Hayes, a student in the program.


Another lesson learned, “if you don’t eat breakfast you’re hungry before lunch,” Emily Maxim said.

Along with Cavanaugh and Quynn, Ellen Thorne from HCC and UMF Community Health practicum students, Eloyah Lawson, Paige Davis and Susan Newkirk helped in the classrooms, Cavanaugh said.

Superintendent Tom Ward helped pass out diplomas and copies of the book, Cooking Matters, to students before everyone tried a variety of healthy snacks.

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