Cooking delicious healthy food kids love!

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We appreciate our supporters:

The Junior League of the Roanoke Valley
The Roanoke Natural Foods Co Op
Physicians to Children

and so many individuals who believe in what we do!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

One of our volunteers helping a student taste his homemade salsa!

What is Happy Healthy Cooks?

This fall, as volunteers, a friend and I began a plant-based nutrition program for 75 first graders at an inner city school in Roanoke, VA. My friend is a RD and a life-long vegetarian. Together, we have raised money, recruited 15 additional volunteers, and we are writing the curriculum (based on an existing, but out-of-date curriculum) for the once-a-week, year long program in the school. The kids love the program and we have the joy of exposing them to fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes in a non-threatening, fun way. The program is very interactive - the children prepare simple healthy recipes based on that week's topic and get to taste new food as we learn about some nutrition fundamentals and the importance of healthy eating & exercise. These students are becoming more and more open to trying foods they have never had before, and they like them! In the past 3 months, they have tried foods like raw baby spinach, class-made guacamole, edamame, red peppers, kiwis, whole grain bread, hummus, and more. Many of the students have never seen much less tasted foods like these. These first graders are learning how vital good nutrition is to feeling good, strong, smart and healthy!

70% of the students in our city qualify for free or reduced lunch, and therefore receive the majority (of not all) of their "nutrition" from the city school lunch program. When I first saw our school breakfast and lunch menus, I couldn't believe it - for breakfast: Mondays, POP TARTS, Tuesdays, BISCUIT W/JELLY, Wednesdays, FRENCH TOAST DIPPERS, Thursdays, HONEY WHEAT DONUT, Fridays, ASSORTED COLD CEREALS (choices are Fruit Loops, Frosted Flakes, etc.). Lunch menu items are not much better, but may include one item that grew and is marginally processed. Our kids get 20 minutes of recess a day, and 20 minutes of PE per WEEK. We are setting them up for a lifetime of bad habits and chronic illnesses.

I hope to grow our little program and maybe create a not-for-profit organization that works with schools to teach kids about healthy eating and help them find ways to offer better choices in the cafeteria and more time for physical activity. Please fan us on Facebook at "Happy Healthy Cooks"