MINNEAPOLIS - "Did you know today is a big harvest day for us?" Robin Krause asked a crowd of eager young listeners.

It's a day she's been looking forward to. Krause and her sister Starla Krause have guided students at Loring Community School in Minneapolis through an entire growing season, and she's eager to have students experience the best their garden has to offer.

"Basically Starla and Robin from the 'Kids Cook' program approached Loring School about ten years ago and were really into getting healthy eating habits and getting more knowledge of gardening into the schools," explained Loring's principal, Ryan Gibb.

"My sister and I grew up in western Kansas and 4H was a big part of our upbringing," said Robin Krause.

The sisters felt it was important to connect with their community. Sharing their knowledge of gardening and cooking seemed a natural fit.

"We use this outdoor garden as a classroom," said Krause. "We bring the school teachers out with their students and we teach basic gardening and cooking lessons."

That's the premise of Kids Cook, and on a crisp fall day, Loring students were ready to give it a go, trying their hand at a variety of fall recipes, including apple butter.

"It tastes very applish and it's very smooth," said third grader Kaya Caprini.

Students also made rolls to soak up that apple butter, and a baked squash recipe.
Students use what they can harvest from the garden, the rest of the food comes from local farmer's markets.

"It's an amazing chance for them to actually be in the garden, working in the garden, then they go back into the classroom and write about it," said Gibb. "They have real world experiences they can connect to."

Sometimes parents are invited to the feast, so they can see how easy it is to prepare simple, fresh dishes. It can be eye-opening for parents who assume their child won't eat veggies.

"They eat food when they've grown it, and they've helped prepare it," said Krause. "There's a lot of 'Yay, I want to taste this,' or 'I can't wait to eat this carrot.'"

This year, the Krause sisters will prepare lessons for Loring's teachers, who will start to lead the outdoor classes themselves.

It's a necessary step to grow not just the garden, but also the knowledge base, so the garden continues long after the Krause sisters move on to their next project.

"This is an amazing program," said Gibb. "We really want to be able to maintain their program throughout the years. It's really a beacon on the northside for Loring School."

(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All rights reserved.)