ATHENS, Ga. — In Oglethorpe County, 4-H’ers have met monthly for the past seven years as a part of the Georgia 4-H Cooking to Share initiative, which challenges 4-H’ers across the state to develop cooking skills by preparing food for families in need. This past program year, more than 60 families benefited from this project in Oglethorpe County.
However, because COVID-19 restrictions prohibited the club from preparing food for people in the past few months, these 4-H’ers adapted to their circumstances — instead of preparing nutritious meals for families, they prepared animal-safe treats to donate to a local animal rescue shelter.
Since August, the club has met twice to prepare treats while following state and local public health guidelines. These 4-H’ers have made 120 peanut butter cookies, 5 pounds of sweet potato fries, 100 pumpkin bars, 50 apple cinnamon cupcakes and 100 granola bars, all of which were donated to Sweet Olive Farm, a nonprofit sanctuary for a wide variety of animals in Winterville, Georgia. 4-H’ers found animal-safe recipes online, choosing treats that had a base of applesauce or peanut butter. Over the course of three visits, more than 150 animals were recipients of these healthy treats.
Marcus Eason, 4-H agent for University of Georgia Cooperative Extension in Oglethorpe County, coordinates the Cooking to Share project club.
“The Cooking to Share project club is a win-win for everyone: Families in need are receiving healthy meals, and youth are gaining confidence in the kitchen, learning how to prevent foodborne illness, eating healthy and practicing kitchen safety, all while learning to cook,” Eason said. “Many 4-H parents state that their child gains confidence in the kitchen by participating in the Cooking to Share program and want to begin helping cook family meals. Teenagers are building on their leadership abilities and the Oglethorpe County 4-H Club is supporting the community.”
4-H parent Monica Patrick is excited to see that 4-H’ers still have the opportunity to learn cooking skills while helping animals in need.
“At first my child was devastated to learn that the Cooking to Share project club was not able to happen this year. That sadness soon turned to joy when she learned that Cooking to Share would continue. She has been so excited to make treats for rescued animals and get back into 4-H,” Patrick said.
Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the largest youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches more than 242,000 people annually through UGA Extension offices and 4-H facilities. For more information, visit georgia4h.org.
–Austin Clark, Georgia 4-H