State News

Meeting a need

Posted 12:01 a.m. Monday

— It was a sobering statement for culinary arts teacher Tiffanie King to hear.

About three years ago, she had a student at the Career and Technical Education Center (CTEC) who confessed that she hadn't eaten in three days.

At that point, King decided that the students, who are learning about culinary arts and hope to work in careers in the food industry someday, needed to do something to help other students who may be suffering from what is called food insecurity.

A food pantry was set up at the school at 2550 Buckingham Road, Burlington. And last year, thanks to funds from the first Cooks for Kids fundraiser, organized by Elon Community Church and the Times-News, the school was able to help another area school create a backpack program. These programs, in Alamance County, allow children who are on free and reduced lunch to receive food during the weekends, holidays and summertime, times when they may not otherwise be able to get a healthy meal.

The second annual Cooks for Kids fundraiser occurred Oct. 15 at Elon Community Church.

Last year's event raised $7,765 and the funds were used to establish five new backpack programs and expand two programs at schools where the need was great, said Sherry Scott of Elon Community Church.

On Oct. 5, CTEC students were busy preparing some dishes they hope to submit to the North Carolina State Fair for cooking contests. Some of those same recipes — Italian Sausage with Peppers & Onion, Sweet Potatoes & Quinoa, Pumpkin Bread and Butterscotch Cookies — will be prepared for the Cooks for Kids event.

CTEC opened in 2012 to serve students from all six of the high schools in the Alamance-Burlington School System. Most of the culinary arts students, King said, work in the food industry.

"These skills help them in their current job situations as well as preparing them for careers in the future," she said.

And they're serious about their craft.

Each student is required to wear a chef's hat and uniform while cooking, and they have to work as a team.

"And I find that I don't have to stand behind them. They learn how to problem-solve, together," she said.

King realizes, too, that there may be other students in the same situation as those being helped by Cooks for Kids.

"For some of these kids, it's survival," she said. "I realize that. And through this class, they can go home and cook for their families or go into their community and help others. Not only are they learning about cooking, but we're teaching kids to give back. That's so important. They're working with their hands and their minds."

Kayla Flowers and Brandon Flynt, both students at Western Alamance High School, said that this class has taught them a lot.

"When you get a chance to give back, it gives you such a great feeling," Flowers said.

"Food is something we all need and being able to help in this way means a lot," Flynt added.

Georgia Valerdi, a senior at Cummings High School, said this class and having the opportunity to give back to the community has impacted her.

If I can do something to help someone who is hungry, that means a lot," she said.


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