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College of Human Ecology

Kathy Walsten's legacy: cookin' kids, healthier families

Monday, November 15, 2010

Walsten a cookin'

Kathy Walsten, right, on the Kids a Cookin' set with Karen Arnold

“I just want people to cook.”

Kathy Walsten summarized her mission as she sorted through 17 years worth of files on the day before she retired from the Department of Human Nutrition. Recycle bins overflowed. Personal mementos dotted the walls. Stacks of papers perched on every flat surface.

Each file had a story. Each story had a lesson.

“Everything comes back to food…and to good nutrition. Everything I’ve done,” the nutrition educator said. “I’ve tried to put lessons in different forms. Everybody learns differently and you reach people in different ways.”

Walsten is one of the hidden celebrities in Justin Hall.

Kathy at her retirement party

Kathy Walsten at her retirement party in Justin Hall

“She is known nationwide for her Kids a Cookin' videos and T.V. segments as well as a wealth of other nutrition education materials for the Family Nutrition Program,” said Karen Hudson, coordinator of the program for food assistant eligible individuals.

“Kathy really fulfills the mission of land grant universities by ‘bringing to life’ science-based nutrition information in practical terms for low income families all over the state,” Hudson added.

Kids a Cookin’ ran for years on television throughout Kansas and in other states; the videos are available at every Extension office in the state. In the show, Walsten turned children into celebrity chefs, lead field trips to places like the Alma cheese company where milk becomes cheese and Schellenberger Hall where wheat becomes flour.

The program, repacked with on-screen commentary from Kathy and producer Ron Frank, continues in weekly English and Spanish versions on the Kid's a Cookin' website with a recipe (Biscuit Bubble Bread this week), Tip of the Week (oven safety), poll and a Kids a Cookin’ and Movin’ segment that includes physical activities so kids can work off the Biscuit Bubbles.

The recipe tester

She tested every recipe for the show. “I still have notebooks filled with recipes,” she said. Several , with her byline, pop up on the Disney website called family.com.

Walsten and Sandy Procter in human nutrition developed “Book in a Bag” to encourage reading and good eating habits. One of the latest lessons features the book “Cook-a-Doodle-Doo!” a children’s picture book by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel about the red rooster who got tired of eating chicken feed and vows to become a chef. Rooster and pals make strawberry cake in a creative spin on “The Little Red Hen.”

The bag also contains hands-on food and nutrition activities. Walsten will continue working with Procter on the project for preschool to early elementary children.

Walsten wrote popular cooking curriculum Mission Nutrition. She developed the training materials and led Loving Your Family Feeding Their Future, an initiative of USDA targeting English and Spanish speaking women with children ages 2 through 18.

“I cannot say enough about Kathy’s contribution to the Department of Human Nutrition and to the FNP program,” said department head Denis Medeiros.

Her favorite Cookin' recipe

Retirement doesn’t mean Walsten plans to slow down. Her list for the future is as long as “Joy of Cooking.” “And there are lots of recipes I want to try,” she add.

Pudding Fruit Salad

From Kids a Cookin’

Kathy Walsten chose and tested every recipe for the television program. This, she said, is her favorite. “Fresh fruit is not always an option, so you can have these ingredients on hand, add a banana and chill,” she said. A good friend gave her the recipe about 35 year ago when she was first married and living in Greensburg.

  • (20 ounce) can pineapple chunks with juice
  • 1 (11 ounce) can mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 (17 ounce) can fruit cocktail, drained
  • 1 small box (3.4 ounce) instant lemon or vanilla pudding, dry
  • 2 bananas

First, wash your hands. In a large bowl, combine canned fruit. Stir in dry pudding and mix well. Refrigerate. Just before serving, slice bananas and add to salad. Keeps well in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days.

Safety tip: Handle cans and their lids with care; dispose of them safely.

This article was posted on Monday, November 15, 2010, and is filed under College News, Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health.