Lately, I have been wondering what will happen to the wonderful work our current First Lady, Michelle Obama has been doing surrounding children’s nutrition when her husband leaves office. Sure, they can hire someone to oversee her beloved garden, and certain of her initiatives have become self sufficient enough to survive.
It is highly unlikely that the future First Person will take an interest in nutrition. Bill Clinton already has a foundation and will likely continue his work should his wife become President. Mrs. Trump has not shown interest in any philanthropic or charitable initiatives as yet, and childhood obesity isn’t likely to be an appealing subject for her.
My concerns were quickly abated this week, when I was asked to volunteer with a wonderful organization called Spoons Across America, which offers programs dedicated to educating children, teachers and families about healthy nutrition through the culinary arts.
My first assignment was to work with a group of fifth graders in PS 1, a public elementary school on the east side of Chinatown in New York City.
After working in the classroom for several weeks discussing nutrition and where our food comes from, the program culminated in an event where the kids cooked and served dinner to their families, with the help of a team from Spoons Across America.
Studies have shown that kids who have a hands-on experience preparing and sourcing new and nutritious foods, are more likely to develop healthy eating habits. There are also findings that show that sharing family meals have both psycological and developmental benefits for children. There are significant indications that teens who regularly have dinner with their families are less likely to use drugs, alcohol, tobacco or exhibit violent tendancies. These facts hold true for all income levels and for families with single or dual parents.
With these values in mind, we set out to assist the kids in The Dinner Party Project. Throughout the afternoon, small groups of students rotated through various stations, chopping, peeling, blending and mixing to create a healthy, delicous meal to be enjoyed later that evening.
The menu consisted of chickpea hummus, served with raw vegetables and pita bread, followed by a cold pureed zucchini and cucumber soup, topped with yogurt and a sprig of watercress. The main course was a choice of chicken or tofu, roasted with garlic and fresh herbs,buttermilk biscuits, and a side of tomato and mozzarella salad, or greens with corn, and a honey mustard vinaigrette. The grand finale was a parfait with fresh berries and yogurt, topped with a drizzle of honey and a mint leaf. The food was attractively presented, and proudly served by the young chefs themselves.
The kids were eager workers, and despite the heat in the small, un-airconditioned kitchen with multiple commericial ovens going, they took to their tasks with enthusiasm and a thirst for learning.
My teams made the chicken, and we touched on concepts, such as how to peel garlic, strip the leaves off fresh herbs, and handle raw chicken safely without cross contamination.
The greatest joy was in seeing the kids so excited about sharing the food they prepared, and the smiles on their faces as they brought back empty platters to be refilled.
It was an exhausting, yet gratifying day, and I hope to be able to work with this wonderful organzation again on other projects. In the meantime, it’s good to know that people have taken up the cause and are doing great work in the world of children’s culinary and nutrition education.
Don’t worry Michelle, we got this!
To learn more about Spoons Across America, click here.
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