Laurel High School students join effort to bake and donate bread

By Rachel Farris

Laurel High Schools culinary program was one of many in the state that made bread from scratch to be donated to the local Food Bank of Delaware in the past few weeks. King Arthur Flour has a Bake for Good initiative that has been around for more than 20 years. Basically what that means is we believe that you can build communities through baking, said Paula Gray, Manager of Bake for Good: Kids at King Arthur Flour. In Bake for Good: Kids, we teach kids how to bake bread from scratch and then they donate to food insecure folks in their community. This is the first time weve done anything kind of this size, said Gray. All these wonderful high school and secondary education teachers in Delaware are stepping up, and their kids are stepping up. We travel to schools all over the country and teach thousands of kids every year.

King Arthur Flour donated flour and supplies (cookbooks and tools) to high schools in Delaware that host the ProStart culinary program, working in conjunction with Rita Hovermale, Education Associate with Family and Consumer Sciences in the Department of Education. Hovermale contacted Gray with the idea this year, Gray explained, and Hovermale brought the idea before ProStart educators. ProStart was developed by the Delaware Restaurant Association specifically to prepare kids to enter the workforce, according to Robert Willoughby, Laurel High Schools ProStart teacher. Since he has students on two different schedules, one class made the dough while the other baked it, and then they switched the next week. Ive got about 20 something bags now, Willoughby said before the second class baked. Well probably have double that by tomorrow. Its a huge impact.

The goal is to donate 20,000 rolls, Gray added. There are over 2,000 kids involved, nearly 30 schools. They learned the technique, they made the dough, they shaped the rolls, they baked them off and bagged them all up and are donating them.

Delawares Secretary of Education, Dr. Susan Bunting, visited LMHS while the culinary students were baking. She visited twice in fact, so she saw both the finished product and then got to see how the students got there. Willoughbys students decided to make crescent rolls; Dr. Bunting saw one particular group made some beautiful looking rolls, and she said they looked like they were ready for Southern Living magazine, which I thought was a pretty big compliment coming from someone of her stature, said Willoughby. I was thrilled to hear that. Bunting, of her part, was excited to see the programs extension in traditional high schools. All the students seemed to be extremely excited about what they were doing, and they obviously were totally engaged in their activities, she said. Im always interested and appreciative of the opportunity for our students to link with the community organizations, be it the Food Bank or any other. I think that community involvement, getting in touch with real life experience Those experiences are invaluable.

Willoughby does his best to impress on his students that same lesson. I really let these kids know that no matter what your circumstance, you can always do something to help your fellow man, he said. He showed the Food Banks website to his students to let them see the reach of the organization, whether they are feeding people in poverty or elderly that are homebound. Places like the Food Bank and Meals on Wheels, they are kind of the lifeblood for a lot of our population, he added.

Laurel has a poverty-level population as well, which was one more way that the Bake for Good: Kids program was a perfect fit. The kids get to make some for themselves and then give some for the community, so its a real win situation all around, Willoughby commented. Kids who dont really have anything dont really know what it is to give outside of this. He can tell when he talks to most students, though, that they feel feel good about helping others. He reminds them that they get to eat some of the food in class, but also feed others who do not have the chance to come to class or other outlets like it; he is considering working with an English teacher to turn the project into a writing assignment as well. Some of the kids really do appreciate it and the ones who are able to think outside of their own world get it, he added. Overall, Id say its been a positive reaction.

Some of the students agree that this has been a great effort. Its cool because its not just cooking with us, its giving back, said Dalton Perdue, a student that Willoughby identified as having great skill and potential with cooking. So its helping other people out and we still get to make it. Jayla Harman was also skilled in the kitchen, having made a perfect lava cake in class as Willoughby described it. I just think working with the Food Bank is nice, she added.

Willoughby hopes that this is only the first of many volunteering efforts for his classes. He hopes to find a church or soup kitchen, or a similar organization, that he can develop a relationship to donate the classes leftovers. They were unable to donate to one church they called on after ending up with nearly five gallons of leftover soup because it was not made on the churchs property. I wouldve loved to have an ongoing relationship with the church or something that we could give our leftovers to and make that a part of the curriculum, Willoughby commented. If we can make it a regular [expectation], I think it gets kids on board. Then that becomes part of their thinking I believe in paying it forward - at some point it will come back to you in some fashion, so Im hoping to kind of instill and plant that seed for the kids.

It has an amazing impact, said Gray. Its one of the main reasons we do [Bake for Good: Kids] is that kids understand that there are people who are going hungry and it feels good to them. They know that their food is going to be on somebodys table very soon and can help people out. So I think that they have great empathy for those in need and I feel that not only [are they getting] the bread-making skills, which is valuable that theyll have now, but these are our future leaders, our future givers, and its a great opportunity for them to give back to the community. The program boils down to a simple, three part lesson, she continued: learn, bake, share. Thats what the program is all about: kids learn how to bake bread from scratch, using their math and science and reading skills; they bake bread confidently; and then they share.

Not only was donating to the Food Bank a great way to start their volunteerism efforts, but it gave the students the chance to make their food from scratch. This was the first time theyre actually making something; theyre not taking clean broccoli out of a bag that came from a produce company. Im hoping that they kind of get that their hands are actually creating what theyre going to get to eat.

News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers. Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.