Reading, writing and roasting: Schools bring cooking back to the classroom

Lots of kids have tried lentils. But what about Ethiopian-style lentils, accompanied by injera bread, couscous and cucumber salad?

Fourth graders in Santa Fe, N.M. prepared this lunch feast themselves as part of a nutrition education program called Cooking with Kids. And nutrition experts say programs like this one are not just about expanding timid kids’ palates. Listen to this NPR report.

Colorado’s first school farm delivers organic produce to cafeteria

Sprout City Farms is a non‐profit urban agriculture organization located in Denver that has the unique distinction of creating and managing the first large‐scale farm on Denver Public School property. In partnership with the Denver Green School, Denver Urban Gardens, and DPS, Sprout City Farms recently signed an agreement – the first of its kind – with DPS Food and Nutrition Services to provide local, organically‐grown food direct to the school cafeteria.

This unique arrangement is the result of months of conversations between SCF and FNS, with support from the Denver Department of Environmental Health: Public Health Inspections Division, the Colorado Department of Agriculture, and Colorado State University Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition: Food Safety Specialists.

In addition to Denver Green School, McGlone Elementary and Bradley International School also have school farms through local farmer Quint Redmond’s company, Agriburbia. McGlone’s will be harvested this fall, while Bradley’s farm will be planted for the first time this spring.

Since Sept. 8, Sprout City Farms has delivered more than 250 pounds of fresh and super‐local vegetables direct to Denver Green School’s cafeteria. The 1‐acre farm is located on school grounds less than 200 yards from the cafeteria door.

Sprout City Farms is currently fundraising to support the long‐term sustainability of its efforts, including the Farm‐to‐Cafeteria program.

Pro chef wows Iowa Elementary School students

Chef Jorge de la Torre, dean of culinary education at Johnson & Wales University, recently visited Iowa Elementary School in Aurora to share his tips on good nutrition and great tasting food.  Students eagerly watched as Chef Jorge prepared nutritious snacks.  They learned about food safety and later got to taste a sampling of cucumbers prepared with chili powder and lime.

Students also received a J&W cookbook so that they could prepare the snacks at home with their families.

Chef De la Torre’s visit was part of Iowa’s Project G.R.O.W.L. (Getting Ready for Outstanding Wellness Learning). Chef Jorge has partnered with Iowa in Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools program. He will be returning to Iowa over the course of the year to give more demos.

Project G.R.O.W.L. also includes the garden that was started last spring and a Food/Garden Club sponsored by the PTSA and run by parent volunteer Laurie Schneyer.  “Miss Laurie” wants the kids at Iowa to understand where their food comes from, how to grow their own, and then how to create nutritious meals from it.

The garden and food/garden club are partially sponsored by Slow Food Denver’s Seed to Table program.

Boulder Valley schools team up with FoodPlay

Students at 10 elementary schools throughout Boulder Valley School District will get to see FoodPlay in school assemblies next week, thanks to grants from the USDA and Colorado Health Foundation. FoodPlay is a national award-winning theater show that promotes healthy eating and exercise habits.

During the fun-filled performance, children follow the antics of Johnny Junkfood, whose dream is to become a national juggling star, but he keeps dropping the balls. The problem – his poor eating habits! With the help of the “Coach” of the National Junior Juggling Team and the audience of enthusiastic elementary school children, Johnny learns how to juggle the foods he eats to wind up with a balanced diet. The show helps children learn how to see through TV commercials, decipher food labels, and make choices that are good for their health and good for the health of the planet. As the children walk away to the beat of “Treat Your Body Right!” FoodPlay’s message comes in loud and clear – feed healthy foods to your body, positive messages to your mind, and have fun being active every day.

“We have to fight fire with fire,” says FoodPlay creator and Executive Director Barbara Storper, MS, RD.

“We need to use the same techniques advertisers use in order to get kids excited about healthy foods and healthy practices. And, schools are the perfect setting to model healthy behaviors and educate students on how to make their choices healthy ones. Once kids get the facts, they become the most effective health advocates, bringing the message back home.”

(Read a story about the FoodPlay program in the Broomfield Enterprise.)

There will also be a Rainbow Day during lunch time at each of the schools on the day of their assembly. Called the “Make a Rainbow on Your Tray” campaign, this initiative challenges students to create colorful creations from the salad bar. Interns, volunteers, and parents stationed at the school encourage the students, take pictures of great looking salads and hand out “I made a Rainbow at the Salad Bar Today” stickers after students have proved that they not only put colorful foods on their tray, but ate them as well.

Aurora students learn about nutrition and healthy lifestyles

Students at Aurora Frontier K-8 were “treated” to a Love Grown Foods yogurt parfait and gained knowledge and understanding about how nutrition can promote a healthy lifestyle thanks to a collaboration between community business and schools. Maddy D’Amato, Chief Love Officer, of Love Grown Foods spent the day with students K-8 sharing expertise on nutrition, health, and food choices.

“Food should have ingredients you can pronounce because then you know what they are made of and what you are putting in your body.”

That is the basis of Love Grown Foods, a local company in North Denver. P.E. Teacher, Jennifer Handy, thought it would be a great idea to show kids real people in the community that are advocating for health. “When kids understand more about food, they can make better choices,” states Mrs. Handy.

Throughout the session students moved like brooms, emulating how fiber cleans out the digestive system. They learned how eating a healthy breakfast makes you smarter. They saw firsthand the positive and negative effects food choices can have on the human body.

In the end, not only did students leave with a healthy snack to share with friends and family, they will take with them information that will guide their choices for life. Empowering children to make healthy decisions is a huge responsibility that should be fostered by home, school, and the community. “This just warms my heart,” said Maddy as the kids crowded around her and thanked her for her expertise and sharing it with them.

School soda bans don’t stop sugary-drink consumption, study says

Teens between age 14 and 18 get more calories from soda than any other single food or drink, research shows, and kids who drink soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages are more likely to be overweight or obese. So health experts who would like to reverse the rise in childhood obesity often focus on reducing kids’ access to these sugary drinks. But a new study has some discouraging news: Students in schools that limited sales of soda and other sugary beverages on campus consumed just as many of the drinks, overall, as students in schools without any such restrictions. Read more in the Los Angeles Times.