AV Press, August 3, 2012
LANCASTER - Kids of all ages braved the warm temperatures Thursday to participate in a variety of sports and activities at Lancaster Municipal Stadium, while others showed their knack for cooking.
About 400 kids who enrolled in city and county park summer day camps in the Antelope, Santa Clarita and San Fernando valleys participated in a fitness challenge and sports such as golf, basketball and rock climbing before the fourth annual Antelope Valley Kids Healthy Cook-Off, which focuses on healthy foods.
"We wanted to make it one healthy event focusing on health for kids. They're doing fun exercise activities and they're cooking fun things," said Heather Larson, public information assistant for the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.
The inaugural Champions for Health event is part of an outreach effort by the county's Parks and Recreation, and Public Health departments and the Antelope Valley Partners for Health. The goal is to introduce and teach activities that participants can take home and to their neighborhoods.
Kids ages 5 to 13 rotated in and out of various activities on the baseball field and surrounding areas, including junior golf, soccer, ultimate frisbee, baseball, softball, tug a war, jump rope, basketball and disc golf.
A fitness challenge provided by Herbalife - which provides free indoor and outdoor boot camp, dance cardio and various exercise activities - created an obstacle course that had kids running, crawling, throwing and rolling a tire, then racing back to the start.
"We're challenging them to come out here and do something different," said Peg Lee, Jackie Robinson Park recreation services supervisor.
Under a tent on the home side of the stadium, elementary and high school youth ages 5 to 18 who have participated in nutrition classes at their local county parks cooked up a storm in the AV Kids Cook-Off.
The competition encourages kids and teens to develop a tasty and nutritious snack or lunch using fruit and vegetables, whole grains and low-fat foods, while avoiding use of electric or gas ranges.
"It helps them to think about what's healthy and what tastes good. Instead of grabbing a bag of chips, they might grab an apple or they might get some celery with peanut butter," said Charlotte Slater-Lunsford, community liaison public health nurse for the county Public Health department.
Slater-Lunsford said the kids previously participated in a nutritional food course with their parents. The top winners from the various parks who created winning recipes are then invited to the cook-off.
Participants from the Antelope Valley represented Everett Martin Park in Littlerock; Stephen Sorensen Park in Lake Los Angeles; Jackie Robinson Park in Sun Village; and George Lane Park in Quartz Hill - all county parks.
Kids ages 5 to 8 created a healthy snack, while those 9 to 18 prepared a snack and lunch.
A panel of judges included Lancaster Vice Mayor Ron Smith; Rosemary Mann, owner of Camille's Sidewalk Cafe in Lancaster; Donia Keys, representing the Sun Village Chamber of Commerce; two peer judges, Juan Ramirez, a Highland High School student, and his younger brother Isaac; and Christina Dierkson, owner of Eat Up on Lancaster Boulevard.
The culinary creations were judged by the ingredients used; portion size; presentation; flavor; creativity; and age appropriateness. Are the ingredients easy for kids to use?
Before the winners of the cook-off were announced, 7-year-old Anthony Woods and his cousin, Myra Johnson, 8, explained the importance of eating healthy.
"It makes you stronger," Anthony said.
"It's good for your body," Myra added.
Their first time in the cook-off after participating in the summer program at Jackie Robinson Park, Anthony made a fruit kabob and Myra came up with a snack she called "Myra's Special Cheese and Crackers."
Madelynn Boop, 9, from George Lane Park, prepared a salad containing turkey, crackers and cherry tomatoes; and for her snack, "Madelynn's Magnificent Fruit Kabobs," which included grapes, cantaloupe, watermelon and oranges.
After the judges sampled the recipes, the winners were announced.
Best of Show and grand champion was Rodney Woods, 12, who received a trophy and $50 gift certificate to Lemon Leaf. Myra Johnson, 8, took first in the 5 to 8 age group; Adrian Fohrenkam, 10, took first in the 9 to 11 age group and received a $25 gift certificate to Lemon Leaf; and Sophia Sanford, 15, took first in the 12 to 18 age group.
The competitors prepared everything from chicken fruit salad to yogurt pies to fruit kabobs. All other participants received a trophy for their participation.
Sponsors of the Champions of Health event also include the University of Antelope Valley School of Culinary Arts; Quartz Hill Woman's Club; Antelope Valley Hospital Women, Infants and Children Program; Lancaster Department of Parks, Recreation and Arts; and Mama Vega Salsa. Participants included the UAV Campus Health and Safety, L.A. County Sheriff's and Fire departments.
Southern California Edison also provided kids a lesson in electrical safety. Representatives from Edison's speakers' bureau provided a display that depicted different scenarios within the home where safety and electricity are important.
In addition, Iris Hosea, speakers' bureau manager, said oftentimes kids are unaware of the danger in touching downed power lines or getting close to power substations.
"Electrical safety is a very big priority for Southern California Edison," Hosea said.