Healthy Food, Healthy Kids!"The first recipe we cooked at Northeast Elementary was Mrs. Patel's Rajma, a recipe developed by Mrs. Patel, an assistant teacher at BJM in conjunction with the Coalition for Healthy School Food Cool School Food program. Rajma means kidney beans in India, and our recipes feature local organic beans from Cayuga Pure Organics. I thought there would be leftovers, but the kids absolutely devoured everything (the Rajma and the rice)! When parents arrived to pick up their children, the kids were so excited to tell their family how good the recipe was and that they wanted to make it at home.
At Enfield, after spending the hour peeling, chopping and sauteing the carrots, onions, garlic, celery, peppers, tomatoes, and beans, and cooking the pasta, the Pasta Fazool was ready to eat. After gobbling down her whole wheat pasta and shouting that it was "the best ever," Destiny insisted on taking some home to her family. In fact, this is how the classes always went - the kids could not wait to share what they made with their families. The students were also running around the school, bringing samples to their teachers. They were so proud of what they made, and how good it tasted!" ~ Sarah Wharton, Cool School Food TeacherTeaching kids how to cook healthy food and to think critically about their food choices is a profoundly valuable life skill. Fifty percent of children already have fatty streaks in their arteries, literally early stage heart disease. Kids as young as eight years old are taking cholesterol and blood pressure lowering medications, and type 2 diabetes is becoming epidemic in children. This is so incredibly sad, because these conditions are completely preventable.
In our cooking classes, children prepare the plant-based Cool School Food recipe that will be offered on the school menu that week. Cool School Food features recipes from different cultures around the world. After exploring the ingredients and cooking the entree themselves, children are empowered to order the healthy option in school and to also encourage their classmates to as well. It's really true that if kids cook the food, they are so much more likely to eat it and like it! The children receive a copy of the recipe so they can cook it at home with their family too!
These cooking classes foster independence and confidence in the child, while also promoting the consumption of healthy plant-based food. It has proven to be a successful model where the most difficult part of the class is stopping children from eating all of the vegetables before they start cooking! Ok, they can eat some, but we have to save enough for our recipe!
In our classes we teach big-picture nutrition, including why eating a more plant-based diet is so healthy. The children are motivated to change how they eat by discovering the relationship between food, health, community, and the environment.
Parents have told us that their children are trying things in class that they wouldn't try at home. Sometimes we hear from parents that they are surprised that their child actually ate our healthy food... and loved it! Children are asking their parents to have the recipes they are learning in class at home for dinner. Not only are the children excited about the recipes, but their parents are too!