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Kimberly Loring, left, Mariah Arnold, Aubrey O'Dell, Brianna Crosby, Kimberly Brames, Charles Talis, Miranda Gagne and Tarrenz LeClair presented the Friendship Center Food Pantry with a cookbook they created. Not attending were Alex Heck and Alyah Hartman.
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Mayor Richard Alcombright flips through cookbook.
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North Adams E3 Academy Creates Cookbook as Final Project

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Beans and Brussels sprouts. Broccholi and coleslaw. And beet brownies. Yum.

The students in the E3 Academy have spent a semester researching healthy food that also had be delicious and affordable.

The result was 50 cookbooks with 27 "teen tested" recipes made with widely available ingredients that were presented to the Friendship Center Food Pantry on Tuesday morning.

"These are fully tested by this group," said Abby Reifsnyder, school adjustment counselor who works with the public school's alternative learning program. "It had to pass all kinds of rigorous standards to get written into the cookbook."

E3 students use a theme during their time in the program that integrates academics with hands-on learning. This past semester's project included guest speakers from Food Bank of Western Massachusetts and the Growing Healthy Gardens Project and field trips to local farms, the food pantry and the Berkshire Food Project. They also did research and made PowerPoint presentations about the food system, food insecurity, nutrition, agriculture and local produce.  

"It was very creative," said student Kim Loring, adding "it also helped us build a relationship, like a family."

The cookbook was created by making, testing and voting on which recipes they found matched the criteria set out in the project: Was it healthy? Was it affordable? Did it taste good? Did it match up with what was available at the food pantry?

They also had to be a mix of preparations — oven, stovetop or cold.

The students had inventoried the food selection at the pantry before researching the recipes.  

"We matched the ingredients we found here so people can use it," student Tarrenz LeClair said.

The pantry's Richard Davis said the students did a good job of matching the ingredients available.

"I'm definitely going to try them," he said of the recipes.

The students found they liked a lot of the foods they were introduced to. Reifsnyder said she brought in kale from the cleaned-out Drury High School garden and was surprised that they thought to make kale and bean soup. A very good kale and bean soup.

Student Kimberly Brames, who explained the pantry presentation with classmate Miranda Gagne, discovered  jicama through the course.

"It was weird and it had a weird smell to it," she said of the Mexican tuber. "But I liked it."

Loring recalled how hard it was to dice rutabaga: "It was a like a rock!"

The 10 students, mostly seniors, will celebrate the conclusion of the course by cooking recipes from the book for their parents on Thursday. The event will take place at the UNO Community Center, where the students did their hands-on cooking and testing.

"It's a great project and a great result," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, flipping through the cookbook.

In addition to LeClair, Brames, Gagne and Loring, students completing the program are Alex Heck, Alyah Hartman, Mariah Arnold, Brianna Crosby, Charles Talis and Aubrey O'Dell. They were also helped by humanities teacher Cathleen King and STEM teacher Jesse Egan Poirer. Davis and Mark Rondeau represented the food pantry.

The "Cooking for (Real) Life" project was funded by a $300 North Adams Public Schools Service-Learning Mini-Grant. Reifsnyder said the layout and photos of the cookbook were created by the students and the printing was done by Beck's. There are 100 books but only 50 have been collated so far, partly because of the difficulty in putting the plastic binders on by hand.

Reifsnyder said the next course at E3 will focus on business (the academy has run the NAMApparel line of T-shirts that can be found at Berkshire Emporium). The hope is that the cookbook can be part of that and produced in a way that more can be acquired for the pantry.

"We would like everyone to get one," she said.

Tags: alternative programs,   cookbook,   cooking ,   food pantry,   school program,   

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