Wellness In The Schools
Last week I was lucky enough to be able to volunteer through the organization Wellness In The Schools. I recently obtained an internship at the non-profit organization and I am very excited to learn as much as I can from the people who work there! Wellness In The Schools is a great organization, it is a small group of dedicated women who work alongside chefs, counselors and teachers to develop and teach nutrition programs to children attending New York City public schools. Chefs and volunteers also do cooking demonstrations with classes across the city. I really stand behind this program because I believe that the best way to reverse the current health crisis in America is to begin with young children. I think that the younger people are educated, the easier it is to make a change. I think everyone can agree that it is easier to develop healthy habits when a person is young rather than breaking a habit at an older age.
Every Tuesday I travel to the upper west side where Wellness In The Schools is located. So far I have been able to do everything from research for an upcoming benefit to writing blurbs for a newsletter and even putting together kits for cooking demonstrations. This brings me to the exciting part. Last Wednesday I was able to take part in one of the cooking demonstrations at a school in Chelsea! One of the volunteers was unable to make it so I took the spot. I woke up at the crack of dawn in order to navigate my way through the unfamiliar subway route to this school. I did get lost in the end, much as I expected that I would. However, all was fine because I wasn’t too late for the job. I had such a great time! First I met the resident chef, a woman named Cynthia who has worked kitchens in Chelsea but who now chooses to work for the school. There was also another volunteer chef, who I worked alongside and chatted with for a good two hours before I found out that she is a judge on the Food Network show Chopped! I was so excited, I don’t think I did a very good job hiding my enthusiasm. On our down time between classes I got to speak to the two chefs about their life experiences and got the opportunity to ask them for some advice. I even managed to slip some of my food show ideas into conversation with Amanda. (The Chopped judge)
Anyway, getting back to Wellness In The Schools, it was wonderful to see their work implemented in real life. Each cooking lesson has a theme, and that day was potato day! Specifically, we showed the children how to make roasted potatoes, a healthy alternative to French fries. Before each class came we laid out cutting boards with plastic knives as well as a few potatoes with bowls of salt and rosemary. Once the children arrived we explained the recipe and taught them how to cut the potatoes. I thought it was a cute trick to have the kids pretend to make a “bear claw” with their hand to do the proper technique for cutting food while protecting themselves. As the potatoes roasted up we explained nutrition and fun facts about the vegetable. We then wrapped up the demonstration by giving each child a sample of the finished product. The results were amazing! Every single person tried the potatoes and almost everyone loved them. This was a feat because most of the kids were very apprehensive about trying rosemary. It was really fulfilling to hear children talking to one another as they left about how they wanted to make the potatoes at home with their families. This was the exact result we had hoped for. I also loved being able to work with the little kids. They were all adorable, if a little bit mischievous, and they knew some things that even I did not know! I left the class with enough potatoes to feed me for a week and an intensely maternal feeling, forcibly reminding myself that I’m not ready to be a mom for at least another five years. My hope is that Wellness In The Schools and other educational programs can continue to expand and teach new ways for children to eat fruits and vegetables.