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When kids get hungry, they turn to whatever’s at hand — w

When kids get hungry, they turn to whatever’s at hand — which often are fat laden, overly processed options.

On Friday, youths at the Vacaville Neighborhood Boys & Girls Club learned first hand about healthy choices — and loved them.

“It’s really good,” enthused Joseph Nunez, 14, enjoying a dish of spaghetti squash topped with marinara sauce and shredded cheese. “It could use more cheese, though.”

Like the other club kids, Joseph just really likes cheese. But the kids also thoroughly enjoyed the spaghetti squash, which they had helped prepare.

“It’s a good way to eat vegetables,” added Jay Jefferson, 10. “Most kids don’t like vegetables, but this is good.”

Throughout the year, the club holds healthy cooking classes to teach kids a better way to eat. It feeds their minds as well as nourishes their bodies and aids the community, too, as the youths go home and share their experiences with their families.

What’s unique is that the kids are heavily hands on with the healthy eating projects.

At the club, the youths tend the gardens that produce the fruits and vegetables and herbs used in their lessons. Next, they harvest the crops and help prepare each dish.

“We grew these from seeds,” said Susan Schwartz, longtime volunteer and head of the club’s garden project. “This is our second (year) with the spaghetti squash. We did it last year and they loved it.”

On this day, halved spaghetti squash sections were pulled warm from the oven and the kids helped shred them. Next came the marinara sauce, made at an earlier date from the basil and tomatoes and onions and more plucked from the tower gardens on the club patio.

Lastly, shredded cheese and parmesan were sprinkled on top and kids took their first bites. Cries for more clearly showed the day’s success.

Just moments before, the kids had embarked on another project — making pickled peppers.

Using plastic knives, the youths made quick work of the jalapenos, ghost peppers, banana peppers and red onions. Following the chopping, they dumped their goods in a large silver bowl and readied it for the pickling juice. Later poured into jars, the peppers would be used in a variety of tasty dishes.

For his part, Jay Jefferson said he enjoyed the classes because he uses the lessons learned when cooking at home.

“The most advanced thing I can make is a burger,” he shared.

His sister, Jasmine, 8, described the classes as fun.

“I like it cuz I get to cook with other people and my friends,” she shared.

“She can make pancakes,” Jay pointed out.

“He can, too,” Jasmine was quick to reply.

Ximena Torres, 10, was excited more about the squash than the peppers.

“Last year we made it and it was pretty good,” she advised.

The kids will soon use their cooking skills again to fundraise for club teens and various projects.

On Sept. 26 outside Sam’s Club, the youths will sell homemade jam, pesto, salsa and more. Details will be posted at

By Kimberly K. Fu,, @ReporterKimFu on Twitter

hich often are fat laden, overly processed options.

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