Get Cooking With School Nutrition Programs

June 04, 2010

Alice Waters has been doing it for decades.

Alice Waters has been doing it for decades.

Waters’ Chez Panisse Foundation began in 1996 as an educational program using food to nurture, educate and empower youth. The foundation envisions a school curriculum and school lunch program where growing, cooking, and sharing food at the table gives students the knowledge and values to build a humane and sustainable future.

Now, the world of celebrity chefs (courtesy of Jamie Oliver) has brought the call to chefs working with public schools on nutrition and cooking, a call that has finally struck a chord with governmental agencies nationwide. With a steward of true public health ensconced in the White House, the call to chefs across the country to fight the battle against childhood obesity has never been clearer or louder.

First Lady Michelle Obama will officially launch the new Chefs Move to Schools Program today, a call to action for the nation’s chefs to partner with local schools, giving cooking and nutrition advice to educators, parents and kids.

The grocery industry is packed with chefs and nutritionists ready and waiting. Many have been involved in local educational programs designed to help families learn to shop the aisles of their grocery stores and make informed decisions about food choices. Now is the time to step those programs up a notch.

Chefs Move to Schools is a part of the First Lady’s larger Let’s Move! campaign to fight childhood obesity. The initiative, which Mrs. Obama and food initiative coordinator Sam Kass announced on May 13, plans to match chefs with nearby schools. Hoping to spread the word, the administration has also employed the help of respected professional organizations such as the IACP and National Restaurant Association.

The program borrows a few ideas from several similar programs around the country, including New York City’s Wellness in the Schools, founded by three parents and educators in 2005. Chefs Move to Schools will pair chefs with schools in their communities to bring fun to fruits and vegetables, and teach kids about food, nutrition and cooking in an engaging way. And by working with school foodservice employees, administrators and teachers, chefs can help deliver these messages from the cafeteria to the classroom. 

While it’s critical for this nation to teach children proper nutrition and get them interested in whole, quality ingredients, it’s also essential that we teach them how to choose foods. The grocery industry is in the perfect position to take hold of these new initiatives, not only bringing its own chefs and nutritionists into the schools, but also taking those lessons into the grocery aisles. Kids need to be taught how to read food labels and understand what to look for. 

By getting kids involved in deciding what to make for dinner, talking to them about making choices and planning a balanced meal, we can improve not only their health and wellness but the family as a whole. For more information on the Chefs Move to Schools program, click here.