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Healthy Home Ec

Family and consumer sciences is a popular elective. Snagging a spot in one of the five classes taught by Molle is viewed as a prize. "My friends said, 'Oh, man, you are so lucky!' " said Henri Collaku, 17.

Parents like it, too. "It's perfectly fine for him to learn to cook on his own and not make his mom cook all night every night," said Sukhbaatar Sanjdorj, whose son, Turmunkh, 17, is in one of Molle's classes. On Mother's Day, Turmunkh prepared chicken fajitas for his mother. He also regularly makes spanikopita, the Greek spinach pie. "He never ate spinach before," said Sanjdorj. "Now he even goes out and buys all the different ingredients."

Shifting toward healthier eating habits is a key goal of family and consumer science classes. And it's working for Andy Laso, 17. Before taking Molle's class, he often avoided peppers, onions and other vegetables. "Now," Laso said, "I eat them regularly at home."

That doesn't surprise Carolyn W. Jackson, executive director of the consumer sciences group. "When you cook it," said Jackson, "you know what's in it and what you like to eat."

As for less nutritious fare, students learn that it can have a place in a balanced diet as "sometimes foods."

"Just about everything we cook in here is healthy," said Ann Joyce, 17, one of seven girls in a class of 26 students.

And as Kilday noted, "When you spend all that energy cooking it, it would be a waste of time not to eat it."

That kind of knowledge can pay off for these kids. By learning how to cook cheaply and healthfully, they can help fight the battle of the bulge -- and put great-tasting, healthful food on the table for the rest of their lives.

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