Students cook school's meals for class credit

EUGENE, Ore. - You won't find any lunch ladies at Network Charter School in Eugene.

The students make all the food.

Breakfast and lunch is served at the Eugene 4J School District charter school off Portland Street, and a mix of students from 7th grade through high school do all the cooking for class credit.

Of course, they do have a teacher - Chef Evan Woodward - who makes sure they follow the recipes, show up on time and do the dishes.

"If you're not cooking anything, you should be cleaning," said Woodward to the class Friday morning.

The class was making Russian blueberry tartlets, toast and fresh fruit on Friday.

For lunch, the class was preparing beef Russian dumplings and a vegetarian version for the students and staff who don't eat meat.

"They get a better diversity of food," said Woodward. "We try and cook all different foods from around the world."

The cooking class goes for an entire semester, and Woodward said there is often a wait list because of its popularity with students.

"Whether they know it or not, many of these students are ready to work in a real kitchen after they're done with the class," said Woodward.

He said he grades students on participation, showing up on time and completing the job from prep to cleanup.

Network Charter School has a hands-on learning focus, and students told KVAL News the teachers "really get involved."

During the day, Woodward works part time at the school, and by night he works as a cook in Eugene.

"I went to culinary school and started working as a cook right away," he said. "Then this opportunity came up, and I really liked it."

As the meal wrapped up a male student began playing the guitar in the eating area and a female student started painting a flower mural in the hallway.

"I never had this type of learning environment when I was in school," said Woodward.