UC 4-H and UC CalFresh Cooking Academy fosters leadership skills

The Issue

Leadership opportunities for low-income, high risk, middle school and high school youth are few in Yolo County. Fostering youth development and leadership skills in teens helps to increase their competence, confidence, connection to their community, and their growth and development into healthy, productive adolescents and adults. Research indicates that youth that practice leadership skills report more community engagement and a stronger sense of purpose and meaning. Fortunately, Yolo County houses both the UC 4-H and UC-CalFresh Nutrition Education Programs which nurture leadership skills and healthy behaviors in youth.

What Has ANR Done?

The UC 4-H and the UC-CalFresh Nutrition Education Programs in Yolo County partnered to implement Cooking Academy; a Teens-As-Teachers (TAT) program that aims to move from serving youth to engaging them. This TAT program led youth through a seven-week after-school program of nutrition education, food preparation, and cooking skills and techniques. The TAT model provides middle school youth extended learning opportunities to shadow college interns and UC CalFresh staff during lessons, progressively moving into teaching their peers how to successfully complete healthy recipes and hands-on nutrition education activities. UC 4-H provided ongoing technical assistance, documentation, and training in youth leadership, while UC-CalFresh implemented the program and trained university interns and middle school youth to safely and confidently teach each lesson.

The Payoff

Strong program collaboration has led to increased leadership opportunities in health for youth.

Seven teen leaders (including middle school-age youth and young college interns) received training, taught nutrition education, food preparation, and cooking lessons to 77, 5th & 6th-grade student chefs at three intervention sites, with one site receiving two interventions within the school year. After the intervention, 100% of the leaders felt that they experienced a successful youth-adult partnership and that they could successfully work with younger youth. The strong collaboration between UC 4-H, UC-CalFresh, and one local implementing school has led to continued and expanded youth engagement opportunities through the formation of a Student Nutrition Advisory Council (SNAC). The inaugural SNAC club led a health education campaign focused on increasing water consumption and decreasing sugar-sweetened beverages on campus and created more demand for continued Cooking Academy programming at this site.


Angela Asch:Community Education Specialist, (530) 666-8731,alasch@ucdavis.edu; Lisa Gonzales: Community Education Specialist; Delynda Eldridge: Program Representative; Marcel Horowitz, Advisor; Anne M Iaccopucci, Academic Coordinator