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Air Force installations host 'Cook It Up' events

Posted 3/29/2012   Updated 3/29/2012 Email story   Print story


by Eric M. Grill
Air Force Personnel, Services and Manpower Public Affairs

3/29/2012 - SAN ANTONIO  -- Air Force installations worldwide are organizing local cooking contests to foster and instill a sense of community and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Known as 'Cook It Up', Air Force community centers are hosting food challenges to draw participants from the entire community and highlight culinary skills. The contest might include a cookie bake-off, a secret-ingredient cook-off or a "mix-it-up"-style competition where participants receive the same ingredients to make a dish.

The original Air Force community center program began in March 2009 to promote healthy eating. This annual program is offered throughout the year and may be partnered with such events as the July 4th Chili Cook-off or a Holiday Cookie challenge.

"Cook It Up contests are a fun way the Air Force community can get involved in making healthier food choices and learn what really makes a recipe healthy," said Julie Klembara, a Community Programs specialist at the Air Force Services Agency here.

Kadena Air Base, Japan and Sheppard Air Force Base, Texas are two of the bases worldwide that are "cooking it up."

Kadena Cooks It Up dorm style

The Shilling Community Center at Kadena AB, combined the Cook It Up program with the Single Airman Programming Initiative to create the mobile Dorm Chef program.

"We wanted a way to connect with (single Airmen living in the dormitories), providing them with a fun activity as well as teaching them a new skill," said Michele Bean, Schilling Community Center program manager. "Our monthly classes started small with only three to four students. Since taking it directly to the dorms, our average class is 15 to 20 single (Airmen)."

Single service members participating in the Dorm Chef program learn to cook a variety of simple foods such as homemade chicken nuggets, nachos, crock-pot pulled pork sandwiches, homemade microwave potato chips and no bake cheesecakes.

The Dorm Chef program is fun and the food is "yummy," said Airman 1st Class Tenealya Littlejohn, one of the Kadena dorm residents participating in the program.

"It was cool for Schilling to come to us right where we live to teach us how to make (quick and easy meals)," she said.

"We use this as an opportunity to not only teach them a skill, but to build a sense of community within their buildings," Bean said. "We also get a lot of great direct feedback as to what kinds of programs and services they want us to offer."

Sheppard goes grilling

The Community Center at Sheppard AFB, which had about 350 people participate in their secret-ingredient competition last year, is combining the Cook It Up program this year with their installation's bi-annual Freedom Fest on June 30.

"The contest is going to have a 'backyard BBQ with friends' feel to it," said Denice Tilley, Sheppard AFB's Community Center director. "I think something people look for when going from installation to installation is a sense of community, and I believe that is what this program is all about."

Using the installation's Freedom Fest as a venue for the contest is a natural fit, Tilley said.

"Grilling out and watching fireworks are an American pastime on the Fourth of July, and we are taking advantage of that this year," she said. "The local Wichita Falls community has been great to us in the past with sponsorship of installation events, so it's really nice that we can have on and off installation participants."

Events are implemented by the Community Center, and for installations without a Community Center, Klembara said the events can be hosted by a force support squadron activity.

For more information about Air Force Community Center programs, visit  

4/5/2012 12:27:47 PM ET
chicken nuggets nachos pulled pork sandwiches potato chips and cheesecakes Perhaps better than fast food but no wonder Americans are fat. Don't we employ nutrition experts that can help share healthy and fun meals for people to cook
Healthy Vegetarian, Air Force
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