WESTFIELD -- Kathleen McCutcheon, member of Girl Scout Troop 40099 and a senior at Westfield High School, earned the Girl Scout Gold Award, the highest award achievable in Girl Scouting.

For her project, McCutcheon inspired elementary school children in Elizabeth to make healthy food choices.  She wrote and translated a bi-lingual cookbook and presented an age-appropriate lesson to the children about healthy yet good-tasting substitutes for the food they eat every day.  She made sure the children realized they have good options and there are little things in everyday life they can do to have happier, healthier lifestyles. 

“Obesity is a major issue in America.  Children do not realize that the choices they are making are unhealthy and they often get into bad habits at young ages,” explained McCutcheon.  “By teaching these kids what they can do to eat more nutritious meals I hope to give them the knowledge to make better choices in the future – and they can teach their parents what they have learned.”

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In creating the cookbook, McCutcheon researched recipes through the winter and spring of 2013, tried each one herself, and decided which to include based on taste and healthy content.  Then, she translated the recipes from English to Spanish, and had the translation reviewed by her high school Spanish teacher to ensure the grammar was correct.  Spanish is the predominant second language spoken at home for the students she worked with in Elizabeth, NJ.  McCutcheon worked with a graphic designer to lay out the cookbook, and had the books professionally printed.

To teach these young children about healthy options, McCutcheon developed a power point presentation on the five food groups.  She addressed portion control by giving each child their own plate with the food groups drawn out on it and a Ziploc bag with various size cut outs.  She asked the children to show her which size cut out they should eat for each food group.  At the end of the presentation she handed out the cookbooks and asked the children to look at a recipe.  As a class, they went through the ingredients and the children showed her which food group each ingredient fell into.  Finally the children drew their favorite meal on the plate broken down into the food groups.

McCutcheon created an informational bulletin board to display in the nurses office, and her presentation and cookbook will remain at the school for use in other classes.  In addition, her cookbooks were distributed to a pediatric clinic nurse in Staten Island to spread the message of healthy habits in that community.

Her project, which took more than 95 hours to complete, was final in June 2013.  McCutcheon will be recognized for her Gold Award achievement this spring in Westfield and then again at a Girl Scout Heart of New Jersey council-wide recognition ceremony in June 2014.