I grew up in a home where food was always in abundance. My parents were both Holocaust survivors who often spoke about the time in their lives when food was at a premium--when a crust of bread, or a spoonful of soup was more valuable than gold. When people would, and sometimes did, do unthinkable things, just to get something to eat. So, to my parents, a well-stocked pantry and fridge meant success and comfort...and most of all, it was symbolic of their survival. They’re greatest joy was to feed people, and it was incumbent upon anyone who walked into our kitchen to have something--a snack, a fruit, and often the ultimate, a meal. My mother could not fathom how, in such a great land as America, people were starving. She knew firsthand what it felt like to be hungry and never wanted others to experience that feeling. And she passed that desire on to me.
Children who are poorly nourished suffer up to 160 days of illness each year.
I first became acquainted with Share Our Strength, a national nonprofit bent on ending childhood hunger in America, when I was a pastry chef. The organization works closely with the culinary industry, and relies heavily on its generosity and expertise. Through fundraisers such as Great American Bake Sale, and Dine Out For No Kid Hungry, it raises money to fund their programs and feed hungry Americans. Their goal is quite simple, but unfortunately in these sad financial times, it can often seem quite herculean: “to connect children with the nutritious food they need to lead healthy, active lives." 1 out of 5 children in this country go to bed hungry...it is unthinkable!
50% of Cooking Matters teens are eating more vegetables.
Cooking Matters For Kids is another portion of the program. It doesn't deal so much with the cost and budgeting aspects of food...it is more nutrition-based, and for six weeks this past summer, it was my program of choice. I, and my fabulous team: the program coordinator, Kate, dietitian, Cara, and assistant, Michele, taught a group of 13 students, from 3rd grade through 5th. The classes were themed (Healthy Snacks, Healthy Breakfast Options, Whole Grain Goodness, etc.), and divided into sessions--nutrition, cooking, and eating, and by the time these kids were through, they had a really strong sense of what was and was not healthy eating. We discussed knife skills and life skills. They learned cooking basics: cutting, chopping, measuring, as well as how to read labels, work together in groups, and even a little food science. The lessons were jam-packed with information. They definitely went home with both their heads and tummies full. It was a great time!
Cooking Matters has grown to serve more than 17,000 families each year.
Children and adolescents who are obese are likely to be obese as adults.
Here’s an example of one of the dishes the students prepared. Turkey Tacos, loaded with lots of veggies, was definitely one of their favorites. We used low-fat cheese and whole-grain tortillas, which made it a really healthy meal.
- 1/4 cup shredded zucchini
- 1/4 cup shredded carrots
- 1/4 cup diced bell peppers
- 1/4 cup diced onions
- 1 pound lean ground turkey
- 1-15 1/2 ounce can pinto beans
- 1 cup no salt added tomato juice
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 8 ounces low fat cheddar cheese
- 1/4 head of romaine lettuce
- 2 large tomatoes
- 8 whole wheat tortillas
Directions: Drain and rinse pinto beans well, using colander.
Coat a large saute pan with non-stick cooking spray, over medium heat saute zucchini, carrots, bell pepper and onion until tender. Add turkey meat to vegetable mixture, cook until browned.
Add pinto beans, tomato juice, tomato paste and all seasonings into saute pan. Stir well.
Grate cheddar cheese, set aside. Rinse lettuce and shred; set aside. Rinse tomatoes and dice; set aside.