The Fast Foods! resource book was developed by Nebraska Extension and 4H. The purpose of the book is to “reconnect children and families with quick and tasty food made at home.” The materials are appropriate for low-income audiences . It was written for children between the ages of 11 and 14 who want to develop basic cooking skills and prepare balanced meals. While it is written for children of this age, some activities could also be used with older teenagers or young adults who plan and create meals for a family.
The resource book is hole-punched and spiral bound. It is well organized, beginning with basic nutrition information and building to enhance an understanding of cooking and preparing healthy and nutritious meals. The book is easy to understand for a novice or inexperienced cook. To ensure comprehension, a glossary is included to assist in understanding confusing terms. Throughout the lessons, key information is pinpointed and then discussed in a later lecture. Intermittently there are illustrations which are simple and well formatted with white space and text. The book also includes two pages with perforated edges to tear away: a page about food equivalents (for example one cup of apples is about one medium apple sliced) and a page about healthy food substitutions.
Activities are divided into various sections: "Nutrition", "Grocery Store Tour", "Stocking the Pantry", "The Art of Menu Planning", "Table Setting", and "Food Safety Basics". Each activity includes a lesson objective, list of supplies, step-by-step instructions to include group work, individual work or worksheets and an evaluation. The worksheets pertain to specific activities however they might require specialization based on the audience and focus of the lecture. They are all displayed in black-and-white for ease of photocopying and reproducing. Even though the prior nutrition education is not mandatory, the evaluations may seem somewhat confusing for someone without a background in nutrition.
The nutrition section covers all portions of MyPyramid. The nutrition information is based on the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.. However, there is a reference to older guidelines in a chart that contains each food group along with a serving size and "daily amount". Current guidelines emphasize personalization of a diet which is not discussed in the book.
The cooking sections are comprehensive. Cooking is divided into: "Stocking the Pantry", "Spicing Things Up", "Cool Cook’s Tools", and "Cooking at High Altitudes". They cover a range of concepts such as choosing staple ingredients along with various uses for those staples. The section on spices covers terminology of various seasoning as well as the most effective way to use them. There is also an extensive section about cooking tools. There are pictures along with descriptions and tips for a wide variety of pots, pans, and kitchen tools.
Menu planning is an important aspect of cooking and nutrition advice. This book discusses the importance of preparing foods with a variety of flavors, textures, colors, sizes and shapes. The food safety information is both thorough and accurate according to current guidelines. To ensure a positive family dining experience, portion size and table setting is discussed.
Approximately 65 recipes are given on individual 3” x 5” recipe cards. There are attractive colored pictures of meals. The recipes used to make these meals are listed separately on the recipe cards. These cards have the recipe on one side and a blank side for notes. The recipes range from snacks, to main dishes as well as desserts and side dishes. They all can be made in one hour or less, have few ingredients and minimal steps. All ingredients are inexpensive and easy-to-find. Nutrition information is not provided for the individual recipes but the book emphasizes portion sizes and a balanced diet to meet nutritional needs.
This curriculum resource is available for purchase online, along with a preview of the table of contents, a sample activity page, and other related materials.