‘Tot Chef’ Program Puts Kids in School Kitchen

BOARDMAN, Ohio – Ninety local students are going from the classroom to the kitchen.

Boardman Local Schools’ Tot Chef after-school program, which focuses on teaching elementary students to prepare healthful meals and snacks, is back this year.

Thirty third-graders from each elementary school in the township are signed up for the six-week classes that began this month. There are three one-hour sessions each week at each of the elementary schools – Robinwood Lane, West Boulevard and Stadium Drive.

Boardman food service director Natalie Winkle explains the kitchen ground rules to third-graders.
Arabella Mock and Emma Love are excited to get started with a healthful corn dog recipe. 

The students are learning the basics in the kitchen, with a focus on safety and good nutrition. They cut, prepare and cook food, and then clean up the dishes.

Natalie Winkle, Boardman food service director, piloted the after-school cooking classes eight years ago but the program was halted during the pandemic. Winkle was awarded a $2,500 grant in May to revive the program.

“I was so happy to receive the grant last spring to help revive the program, and to extend it to as many students as possible,” Winkle says. “Class sizes were restricted to 30 for safety and the first 30 permission slips that were signed and returned to each school office became our first little chefs in training.”

Pictured at top: Brock Buckley checks out the corn dogs with veggies that they prepped.