Brileigh Phillips and Casey Gonzalez enjoy a Fourth of July berry smoothie Wednesday the Wharton County Library-Louise Branch during a free Heroes for Health cooking class.

Youth are learning how to prepare meals and snacks and about food safety this summer thanks to Heroes For Health, a free program offered by the Wharton County Extension Office.

Three years ago, Prairie View A&M University pioneered this grant program, with help from Walmart, to combat the issues of childhood obesity and diet-related diseases, according to Kashara Bell, family and consumer sciences Extension Agent for Wharton County who works in cooperation with the university.

This summer, classes are held at 3 p.m. on Wednesdays at the library in Louise and at 3:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays at the library in El Campo.

Bell, along with fellow family and consumer sciences Extension Ag Lori Schindler, instructed children on how to make a Fourth of July smoothie bowl Wednesday at the Louise library.

The bowl included a base of blended blueberries, strawberries and cherries topped with the child’s choice of sliced banana, more blueberries and shredded coconut. Children were allowed to fill a blender with ingredients and then push the button to blend them.

So far, around 125 children have made smoothies, colored pancakes and zucchini, chicken and shrimp rice bowls. The goal is to reach at least 300 children. Eventually, the children will learn to make guacamole, Bell said.

“These are easy recipes that the children can make at home. They’ve already learned how to scramble eggs on a skillet.”

At the end of each class, the children fill evaluation forms that identify their eating habits. Children are taught nutrition facts, how to read a food label, different measurements and shopping tips on how to save money at the grocery store.

“We want to see how much they eat a day, and if they eat breakfast. It’s all geared toward healthy eating,” Bell said. “We want to see where the county is, it’s all part of the grant.”

Children are given a copy of the recipe and a prize that includes oven mitts, storage bowls and measuring spoons.

“They enjoy cooking. They like to be active. Some of them had never tasted zucchini or had a smoothie,” Bell said.

“They like the smoothies instead of ice cream. We want them to get away from sweets and eat more vegetables and leaner meats,” she added.

Monday, July 15 the El Campo library hosts a hand washing safety class at 3:30 p.m. Cooking classes are at 3:30 p.m. Monday, July 22 and Thursday, July 25 in El Campo. Another cooking class is at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 24 in Louise.

Call the Extension Office at 979-532-3371 for information.

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