Dickson County Junior Chef program’s first year cut short due to COVID-19 pandemic

Special Reports

DICKSON COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) — The COVID-19 pandemic left its mark on schools across Middle Tennessee. But it’s also affected programs outside of the classroom. Just like the new Junior Chef program at Dickson Middle School.

This is the first year the school introduced the program to students. Spring Peterson is the school’s kitchen manager. Peterson said before the pandemic, she was teaching students how to cook through the program.

Peterson said she was asked by Jason Collins the school’s health coordinator, to run the sessions after officials looked at other counties, states, and schools who implemented the program.

“They really wanted to bring the program here so that we can teach kids, 7th graders, how to cook, how to use a knife, how to take raw ingredients and make something out of it,” Peterson explained.

In each class, students learn about kitchen safety, food preparation, and what knives cut certain foods best.

Peterson said she hopes this class is beneficial for years to come. “We’re hoping they will learn how to live a healthier lifestyle. They want the kids to learn in a healthy environment, how to be healthy and teach their children, so it’s kind of a ripple effect.”

Students like Avery Benner said it’s had been a great experience so far. “It’s fun, since we know each other we get a little goofy every now and then. It’s been fun working together and learning new things.”

Peterson explained this is a unique opportunity for the kids and said they couldn’t wait to start the program.

“They don’t like sports, so this is another outlet for them. It warms my heart that they came to ask me about starting and were so excited. I love to see this because I wish I would have had this as a kid, I would have gotten into the culinary arts a whole lot sooner.”

Benner told News 2 his grandfather inspired his interest in cooking.

“He cooks a lot, we will have like a little dinner and it goes from a little dinner, into a huge feast. He loves to cook and I learn from him a lot.”

Peterson said she hopes that other schools take this program on. She wants both parents and kids, to see nutrition differently than a few years ago.

“We are really bringing in some new ideas, cooking techniques and healthier foods to replace others. We are getting a nutritious breakfast and lunch. When I went to school, lunch was not what you wanted to eat. I want that image to change, and this is a great way to change the image.”

Collins said they plan to bring the Junior Chef program back when they return to school in August. And they hope this program is only the beginning.

News 2 digs deeper into how schools are planning to move forward safely for the new academic year. See how other districts around Middle Tennessee are handling everything from classroom concerns to the future of sports in our special series. Click here to see more.

Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

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