Food and fun

By: 
KateLynn Slaamot, NLJ Reporter

Submitted photo

Allie and Junior Easton prep ingredients for one of their meals together. 

New program brings families together at the dinner table

 

Bringing families together at the dinner table is important in the midst of such a fast-paced society, according to Erin Persche, Weston County’s 4-H educator, and that is just what the University of Wyoming Extension’s Food, Fun 4-H program hopes to do. 

 

Wyoming Food, Fun 4-H offers a way for families to connect through cooking and eating together. Those enrolled in the program receive four to five recipes per month, with an activity to go along with each one, Persche said. 

 

The program began in 2022 and was modeled after a program created by Oklahoma State University Extension. However, all of this year’s recipes were put together by Wyoming’s own extension educators, including Persche. The other educators involved in the program are Kellie Chichester of Niobrara County, Joddee Jacobson of Natrona County and Mary Louise Wood of Park County. 

 

The goal is for families to make at least two of the recipes each month, take pictures of the process and enjoy the meal. 

 

Persche said that after the families are done with a recipe, they submit pictures and answer three questions about their experience. If that gets completed, the family receives a cooking gadget in the mail. 

 

The cooking gadgets are not only a fun incentive, Persche said, but also a way for kids to collect cooking utensils they can use later in life. 

 

An important goal of the program is to provide a way for families to connect and prioritize meals together. One hope is that kids will also
learn and cultivate cooking skills that they can use once they are out on their own.

 

The program also includes a recipe each month that can be entered into their county fair, and then maybe go on to the Wyoming State Fair. 

 

“We figured this was a really fun way to get kids and families cooking in the kitchen, and when you look at the research of how many families actually sit down to … a family dinner, it’s very low,” Persche said. “We thought that was … something that was really important to maybe help our 4-H’ers find, even if it was just one meal a month …, cook together and sit down and enjoy a meal together.” 

 

This year’s program runs from October 2023 to April 2024, but families can sign up whenever they are able for the next month. People can go to wyoextension.org/westoncounty and go to the tab for Wyoming Food, Fun 4-H. All the recipes for this year are also listed, and the educators do a YouTube video each month to discuss the recipes. The program is also not limited to 4-H members. 

 

“It’s a lot of fun. I’ve had really good participation here in Weston County,” Persche said. 

 

In addition, once a month, the Weston County Extension office hosts a get-together to cook one of that month’s meals together. 

 

Persche said she enjoys seeing the kids develop and grow in their skills in the kitchen and said it is good to see them have confidence to try new things. 

 

“We know we’re doing something that families really enjoy, and the pictures each month are so fun to look through and see those kids just really, truly thriving in learning new skills and becoming confident in the kitchen,” Persche said. 

 

Persche hopes that the program will continue to grow and provide families with a fun activity. 

 

Right now, 134 families are enrolled in the program statewide, and Persche said that close to 10 of those families are in Weston County. 

 

Katie Easton of Weston County has been doing the program with her two kids since last year. 

 

“Our family loves to cook, and it’s really important for us to sit down for a meal, and so we thought that would be a great addition,” Easton said. 

 

Easton’s daughter, Allie, is 9 and her son, Junior, is 7. Easton said they both enjoy the program, especially receiving the cooking utensils each month. 

 

Easton loves the skills the program offers her kids, the family time at the dinner table and the balanced meal options. Allie has even entered cookies and won ribbons for them in the Weston County Fair. The program gave her confidence in cooking and baking, Easton said. 

 

Easton encourages more families to join for the priceless memories and times as a family because it is so important, she said. 

 

“It’s just been a really fun program. It’s been fun to work with educators across the state, and it’s just been a lot of fun to see just how this program has really thrived in the last year and a half, how excited the kids are to participate, and the pictures each month are so fun to see them just really excited to be cooking and in the kitchen,” Persche said.

 

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