Italian Chef Gino Brings the Food Revolution to Elementary School
Once a month I host a kids-make-your-own-lunch event at Grant Elementary School in Santa Monica, CA.
It’s an event orchestrated by Harriet Fraser and myself, born at one of Jamie’s Oliver’s food revolution’s call to action meetings.
The program is simple: we got a local Whole Foods Market to donate the fresh produce and, once a month I set up camp in front of the school’s entrance (Friday are late start days) and help the kids (who bring their own containers) make their own lunch with fresh, appetizing ingredients.
In the past I jokingly told Harriet that she should find a group of parents who alternate to handle the program, “No need for Chef Gino the celebrity chef,” noting that, after all the cafeteria offers already a fresh salad buffet every day .
Harriet answered that they need my personality to get the kids involved and that the kids don’t seems to care much for the salad bar at school while they love the food I prepare.
I take a compliment when I can and I know that years of experience working with kids makes me an energizing force behind the tables as the kids cook away but then I realized that there was something more behind Harriet’s statement.
In Italy (as I mentioned before in another blog) eating at school is handled differently than in the States.
When time to eat lunch comes, all the kids sit together and the teachers take the food around and talk to the kids about what they are about to eat, they encourage them to eat and try different things.
In America, kids are left pretty much by themselves in the cafeteria, the teachers are somewhere else and it’s not the job of the cafeteria staff to encourage kids to eat.
Kids are abandoned in the cafeteria, left alone, even at a early age, to make choices. No other period of the school day is handled like that, even recess is supervised by the teachers. It isn’t hard to understand why they wouldn’t eat or even look at certain items under these conditions. It would be like the math Teacher dropping a math text book on the desk and then going to have a coffee break hoping that the kids will learn algebra by themselves.
As the food revolution pushing for better food in cafeterias makes progress and new and healthier items are introduce daily to school menus, I urge the school system to consider placing a teacher around the cafeteria to introduce the kids to the food they’re about to eat, to encourage them to taste and enjoy what’s served.
Let’s help our kids make the right choices, let them experience new flavors and new tastes. The path toward a healthier life style starts with the knowledge of different foods. After all, we are what we eat.