Shawnee Mission culinary students cook up 1,000 meals for local families in need
The effort kicks off a pilot program called Kids Feeding Kids, allowing high school culinary arts programs to distribute meals to children and families in need.
A group of local students ditched the classroom on Wednesday and headed to the kitchen to feed those in need this holiday season.
Students from the Shawnee Mission Culinary Arts and Hospitality Signature Program spent their morning prepping a staggering 1,000 meals to be distributed to 250 families in the school district.
Michael Mohr, a senior at Shawnee Mission East, was in charge of poaching chicken and cooking celery and carrots for the hundreds of chicken pot pies on the menu.
He said he would much rather be in the kitchen giving back to the community than in class this morning.
“It really makes me put my heart and soul into what I’m cooking,” Mohr said.
The effort kicked off a pilot program called Kids Feeding Kids, led by Pete’s Garden. The organization partners with high school culinary arts programs to distribute meals to children and families.
The organization received a $15,000 grant from the 15 and the Mahomies Foundation to launch the pilot program and used food donated by Lucky International Trading.
Matt Ziegenhorn is the district’s entrepreneurial leadership instructor and oversees all of its student-driven businesses, including the Broadmoor Bistro located in the Shawnee Mission’s Center for Academic Achievement.
Ziegenhorn said the school district’s culinary students serve meals throughout the year at the student-run restaurant, but the new program will let students hone more than their culinary skills.
“The No. 1 thing that keeps us doing what we do, especially in an education role, is our love for food. It makes people happy and brings together a time to share a moment and that's what we try and instill into our students as well,” Ziegenhorn said. “That food makes people happy, right? But it's also a very key ingredient to the sustainability of our lives.”
The role of food in serving those in need is also a key part of the culinary program's curriculum, with students being required to participate in four community events every quarter.
Steve Venne, a culinary instructor, said these events help students develop “soft” skills like opening up and working with people who they might not otherwise encounter.
“A lot of kids don't realize how fortunate they are so I think the opportunity to kind of get out there and see and help people who don't have what they have, it's kind of an eye opener a lot of times,” Venne said.
Venne came up with the program’s menu, which includes chicken pot pie and a bagged salad from Hy-Vee. His goal was to come up with a meal that could serve a family of four and is easily re-heatable.
If the program's launch goes well, Ziegenhorn said other schools and culinary programs will also be able to join and serve their respective communities.
Meanwhile, Shawnee Mission students who complete their district’s culinary program will earn advanced credits at Johnson County Community College, getting their foot in the door to pursue a career in the kitchen.
Eighteen-year-old Mohr hasn’t decided just yet if he wants to commit to a culinary career but he said the skills he’s learning won’t go to waste.
“I get to learn new skills like knife cuts and how to tell if a steak is done or under done or over done and really just cooking is a great experience to know for your life,” Mohr said.