This story is about P.S. 230, a Title I school located in the Kensington section of Brooklyn, New York. In 2011, three kindergarten students at P.S. 230 in Brooklyn learned how to read nutrition labels and spent lunch time discussing the amount of sugar in the chocolate milk served in the school cafeteria. Alison Brackman, their kindergarten teacher told the kids that just talking about it wasn’t going to change anything. Inspired by her words and empowered by her lessons on writing letters, Nathaniel and Rami were spurred to action and wrote letters to the school principal, assistant principal and school food service manager.
The timing was just right – the letters from the kids spurred the school to make change. The school now serves chocolate milk only at Friday lunch. The wellness committee is continuing to monitor milk consumption and discuss other ways to ensure calcium rich foods are included in the school food menu.
Inspired by Chefs Move to Schools, volunteer culinary professionals have joined P.S. 230’s wellness committee and are implementing simple and inexpensive food education programs in classrooms and the cafeteria. The program is modeled on a program developed by Food Network star and nutritionist Ellie Krieger for her daughter’s public school. Many New York City public schools already have salad bars in place, but kids don’t always participate or choose the fresh fruits and vegetables that are available. To showcase the vegetables, a chef volunteer selects an item, such as red bell peppers, and prepares a 10-minute lesson about different kinds of peppers. The lesson is delivered to each classroom by parents, and bite size tastes are provided in the cafeteria at lunch time. With the help of peer influence, nearly every student tasted a red pepper at lunch, and the volunteers received many requests for more. Parent volunteers felt like rock stars, and an observer might have thought they were handing out sugary treats, not red pepper slices. P.S. 230 began this program with the first grade class in the spring of 2012 and hope to reach all grades in the fall.
Working with parents, the Chef was able to secure a table at the year-end school fair. Two simple, hands-on games were designed to engage kids in making healthy food choices. The first game had kids use teaspoons to guess how much sugar was in a number of different drinks. The second had kids guess a single portion size of various snack foods. The local supermarket donated watermelon and anyone who participated in an activity got a free piece. Several hundred children participated in the program, staffed by parents and the volunteer chef.