The secret is in the sauce

A local charter school, Everglades Preparatory Academy, and First United Methodist Church of Pahokee recently took to the kitchen simmering sauces and blending laughter with a touch of oregano. The end result was a special meal to take home. 

Paul Aupperlee, husband of church pastor Patti Aupperlee and a chef by trade, taught more than 40 high school kids how to make taco lasagna during a recent Balanced Living Mentorship luncheon.

"It was something the church volunteered to do to help give back to the community," said Patti Aupperlee. The luncheon was part of an eight-week course.

The Balanced Living Mentorship Program is a nonprofit organization whose goal is to help kids in the community by building positive character. The program was established by Hikeem Banks in 2013 and is sponsored by the Q81 Anquan Boldin Foundation. Youths who participated in the course earned partial credit toward completing high school.

“I've worked with Hikeem before, and he really has a passion for helping the community," Aupperlee said. This is the first time First Pahokee has participated in the Balanced Living Mentorship Program. “That attitude fits perfectly with the church’s vision.”

Paul Aupperlee, a chef by trade, recently taught more than 40 youth from Everglades Preparatory Academy how to cook a taco lasagna dish. It was part of a Balanced Living Mentorship Luncheon initiated by FUMC of Pahokee.

First United Methodist Church of Pahokee serves a low income area where a large percentage of public school students qualify for reduced-price lunches. Helping residents and partnering with the Everglades charter school have become valued parts of the work FUMC does.

Her husband Paul is no stranger to teaching people how to cook. He's been working with a national program called "Cooking Matters" that shows parents how to prepare healthy meals on a limited budget. It’s staffed entirely by volunteers.

“I chose to teach the students how to make taco lasagna because the ingredients can be found in any grocery store, and they're inexpensive,” he said.

"These kids do not come from families with a lot of resources and this recipe includes multiple food groups.” He added the dish can also feed a family of four for under $10.

The kids worked in small groups sitting at round tables of four or five, each taking turns adding ingredients to the recipe. Many had never cooked before and some were said to be intimidated initially by the large commercial stove in the kitchen.

“They asked great questions about why certain ingredients were used, why the lasagna had be cooked so long and if they could vary from the recipe and season to taste. They had fun together,” Paul said. “There was a lot of beautiful laughter filling the fellowship hall.”

The kids also used important skills like math to measure and multiply ingredients and science to mix and create something new. The end result was a meal to take home to their families.

Chef Paul added that he enjoyed the style each of the students brought to their teams. “It enriched me,” he said. “I was honored to be a part of this great group of people.”

The website for the “Cooking Matters” program states that more than 265,000 low-income families have been helped by the initiative since 1993.

“The church is comprised of a body of faithful disciples who are changing the world by loving others as God loves them,” said Patti Aupperlee.

--Ashley Mistretta is a freelance writer based in the Tampa area.

Photo courtesy Bigstock

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