Culinary Club Brings Essential Food-Related Skills to Tulsa’s Street School

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For the second year, the Junior League of Tulsa (JLT) has partnered with Street School, Oklahoma’s longest-running alternative high school, to teach nutrition-based cooking classes to Street School students. Street School began 43 years ago as a “drop-in” center in downtown Tulsa. Today, it is an alternative high school serving at-risk youth and their families in the Tulsa Public School system.

Twice a month from September through May, JLT’s Street School Culinary Club Committee meets with approximately 12 Street School students to educate them about healthy lifestyles and how to prepare nutritious meals.

“Because of the population that Street School serves, they don’t typically have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities,” Street School Culinary Club Committee Chair Courtney Wayland says. “But every Friday afternoon as part of the Street School curriculum, the students are allowed to choose an extracurricular activity to participate in, which is where Culinary Club comes in.”

The goal of Street School Culinary Club is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to live a healthy lifestyle. Of the two monthly sessions, one is a food education lesson in a Street School classroom, and the other is a cooking class at Tulsa’s Harvest Market classroom. The eight Street School Culinary Club Committee members take turns planning and teaching the sessions.

“We focus on simple, healthy meals,” Wayland says. “We started by taking an interest inventory of the students to find out what their experiences with food were and what they like, and we tailored our classes using that information.”

Lessons have included make-your-own trail mix, baked ziti, and basic cooking techniques, among other topics. Each class includes a discussion about what constitutes a healthy lifestyle and what foods are key components of a nutritious diet. Additionally, the students are provided with a price breakdown illustrating how much it costs to prepare the dish they made. At the end of each class, students receive the ingredients to remake the recipe at home.

Street School Culinary Club Committee members also have coordinated special opportunities for the students. “In April, one of our committee members arranged for us to take the students to the restaurant Biga for a class taught by an actual chef, so they can see what it’s like to work in a commercial kitchen,” Wayland says.

The committee members are optimistic about the future of JLT’s collaboration with Street School. “We hope to continue to build the program, to expand the classes and work with even more students in the future.” Wayland says.