April 11, 2008

The aroma of freshly baked cookies and muffins permeated the air along with youthful laughter as 4-H members from Fort Campbell learned baking can be fun and worthwhile. Some of the day’s treats are heading for family and friends stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The program, To Bake is Great, taught the youngsters about baking with whole grains, adding them to their diets and how easy it is to make bread, said Toni Riley, Christian County 4H Youth development agent for the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.

“Fort Campbell is a big part of our program, and they do a lot of cooking programs. But they don’t get to bake, because they don’t have the facilities,” she said. “This is their spring break, so we offered to have the classes at the extension office, and they jumped at it. After they learned the basics, then we wanted them to be able to make a food product that they could send to a family member stationed in Iraq or Afghanistan and give them a little taste of home.”

“We’re making muffins to help kids find more ways to eat whole grains but in a fun way,” said Hannah, 11. “We made a basic muffin mix and added ingredients and kind of made a theme for it. I made a pumpkin pie muffin.”

“This afternoon we are going to bake cookies for the soldiers in Iraq,” said 12-year-old Khadezjah, including her stepfather.

Marissa, 11, made ranger cookies in the afternoon to send to her father who is in Afghanistan. She also made coconut and cinnamon muffins.

“We have a (score) sheet so we can decide which ones would be the best if they put them on the market,” she said.

Riley works closely with directors and trainers in Fort Campbell’s Child and Youth Services program. Security on post does restrict some of what can be done, but Riley said her goal is to have all the traditional 4-H community clubs available for youth at Fort Campbell.

Franca Wallace, trainer and program specialist for youth with Child and Youth Services at Fort Campbell, said as many as 90 percent of youth in the teen program may have a deployed parent, and it is very important to keep them connected. Baking cookies is one way to do that.

“I’ve been with 4-H many, many years now, and nutrition and fitness is one of our most popular clubs,” she said. “They are exposed to more things by getting involved in 4-H. Some of them may have never seen a farm animal. They’ve participated in Earth Day activities with Toni, sewing and leadership. I am a major advocate of 4-H.”

It took some research to find the best cookies for shipping, but Riley was able to come up with several options with peanut butter and a ranger cookie, which includes fruits and nuts, being the favorites.

There were a few mishaps long the way – an incorrect measurement here and a dropped egg there - but the final outcome was great muffins, beautiful cookies and some proud bakers.

“Deployment is so hard on families, and these are family activities we are teaching them,” Riley said. “Making muffins (and cookies) is easy. Hopefully, this will give them something to make and do as a family.”

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