On March 18, the Youthlinks Top Chef Rockland cooking club was visited by Chef Jeff Space, director of Nutritional Services at Pen Bay Medical Center.

Each week, local high school students gather at Youthlinks to learn new cooking skills, taste new foods, and meet with local chefs who share their talents and knowledge with students.

Space joined the program to share with students the USDA’s My Plate initiative, to reinforce the Let’s Go 5-2-1-0 program (five servings of fruits and veggies, two hours or less screen time, one hour or more physical activity, and zero sugary drinks), and to improve student cooking skills. The My Plate model offers a simple, brightly colored guide for people to follow to create healthy and nutritious meals. My Plate transforms the food pyramid into a daily meal guide, with half a plate filled with fruit and vegetables, one quarter filled with a lean protein, and one quarter filled with a whole grain, and a serving of lowfat dairy on the side. Chef Jeff Space cooked a My Plate meal of asparagus, chicken, and lowfat cheese quesadillas; tomato, avocado, and cilantro salad; a black bean and mango salad; and seared pineapple, served with a container of skim milk. Space showed students that flavor, color, and interest in a meal can come from a variety of fruits and vegetables and delicious herbs and spices instead of added fats or preservatives.

Students also improved their cooking skills while working with Space, as he reinforced the proper way to hold and use chef knives, tips for peeling garlic, red peppers, and pineapples, and the best way to pit an avocado and a mango. The meal was then enjoyed by all participants.

For more information please call Youthlinks at 594-2221 or visit youthlinksonline.org.