{Guest Blog} Sowing the Seeds of Success: Low-to-No Cost Tips for Teachers and Parents to get Kids Excited about Food

High school students eating in the school cafeteria

Sowing the Seeds of Success: Low-to-No Cost Tips for Teachers and Parents to get Kids Excited about Food

By Rob Glass

Rob is a Spanish teacher in Maryland, a Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Ambassador, and an avid amateur chef.

Summer is almost at an end, and the school year will be here again before you know it. Although there have been many massive steps forward regarding school lunch in the past few years, there is still a long way to go. And as a teacher myself and advocate for kids everywhere, I also think one of the most important things we can do as a community is make sure that kids are getting positive reinforcement and making good choices both in and out of school. Although school food reform might seem like a daunting task, there are several steps you can take at home and in your community. Although part of this will be written from a teacher’s perspective, many of these ideas can be implemented at home too!

#1 MAKE FOOD FUN AND SOMETHING TO LOOK FORWARD TO!

We’re learning that the more engaged and involved kids are with food, the more likely they are to try it. There’s plenty of ways to do this as a parent or educator. At home, assign easy jobs at dinnertime, such as peeling or chopping that uses an age-appropriate knife, and make your kids part of the dinner process.

When it’s seasonally appropriate, go to a local farm or farmer’s market. Seeing the food being grown makes it more exciting and interesting, and once again, more likely to be tried or tasted. Some farms will even offer tours or have farmers come out and do a kid-friendly craft or give a kid-friendly explanation. Even better is a “pick-your-own” farm. A kid who picked his own apple or took strawberries right off the vine will be much more excited than one that came from the store.

Another highly effective technique is to offer small choices at dinner time. But instead of choosing between carrots and french fries, offer the choice between carrots and squash. This way, your kid is still taking control of their choices, but you’re also giving a positive exposure to healthy foods.

#2: Turn food into a science/math/reading lesson

As we move deeper and deeper into Common Core (at least in Maryland), integrating a wide variety of sources and techniques to enhance everyday learning has become the key. Food is the perfect springboard for this.

For science, have kids look at the benefits of eating certain foods vs others. Or have them track how much exercise they would have to do to burn off a certain food. In my Spanish class, we look at the MyHealthyPlate and create menus that integrate all of the food groups, plus the essential vitamins and minerals. With advanced classes I’ve also had them do calorie counts. They’re practicing the language but also thinking critically, enhancing categorization skills, and thinking of food from a different perspective.

For a math lesson, even the youngest kids can still help count how many of a certain item you need to make a meal. Older kids can help with measurements, stirring a certain amount of times, or following your instructions for turning on the oven or setting the stove to the right heat. After the meal is ready, kids can help portion out servings, practicing fractions while also learning what a real serving size should look like.

Even with English and language arts there’s plenty of things you can do! Especially for younger kids and picky eaters, have them use their 5 senses to describe a food they like and a food they don’t like. You can also use this to have them try new foods, describing them as similar in texture or similar in smell. Giving them a gateway will make them much more likely to try it. And if your child is reading a book in school or for summer reading, try finding references to food that the characters like, and make it with her! I will always fondly remember reading Stone Soup in elementary school, and at the end of reading it each student brought in a different food that we mixed all together to try. It was a very memorable lesson, even 20 years later!

#3: Get involved with a local gardening/cooking club, or make your own!

And finally, it’s always good to work in a group! See if your area has a kid’s gardening club or cooking club already in place.Many libraries, churches, or schools will offer summer programs, usually at no-to-low-cost. These groups provide a chance for your kids to see their friends while also learning healthy habits and having fun.  And if you can’t find something, start something! I’m now going on year 2 of having a cooking club at our public library, and we usually have anywhere between 15-30 signups each month. Each new student is a new student reached out to, and a positive influence on the community. It always makes me happy when someone comes back next month and said that they made something with their family or couldn’t wait to go home to talk about it.

 

Blogging Over There…

Thank you

Hi friends,

I just wanted to let you know that if you want to keep up with me, I’m blogging at speechisbeautiful.com a lot more frequently. In fact, I try to blog about once a week. It’s my speech therapy blog and I find it a lot easier to generate ideas because it’s what I’ve been doing for 10 years.

You can also check me out on instagram.com/sarahwuslp — I’m posting at least once a day.

I’ve gotten into Pinterest too: pinterest.com/sarahwuslp — How fun is it on Pinterest, right?

Also, you can get on my EMAIL LIST!

I’m also AVAILABLE FOR HIRE — feel free to pitch me something! I’m open to many different possibilities or roles. Here’s my email: SarahWuSLP(AT)yahoo.com 

Thanks so much!

Sarah

 

 

 

Basic Pasta Carbonara for A Family of Four

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One of our favorite recipes is Pasta Carbonara. It’s easy to throw together and kids love it. Here’s how we make it:

  • 12 oz of Gluten-free pasta, preferably corn-based
    2 TBSPs olive oil
    8 oz of chopped pancetta (or bacon chopped small)
    2 eggs, lightly beaten
    Pinch of salt
    1/3 cup Parmesan

Boil water and add lots of salt (to keep the gluten-free pasta from sticking). When the water reaches a roiling boil, add pasta. In a separate pan, heat olive oil and add all of the pancetta. I like it crispy so I fry it for a long time. In a small bowl, beat the two eggs, add a pinch of salt, and set aside. Drain pasta after 10 minutes (depends on package directions). Add noodles back to the empty, but hot, pot and then pour the two eggs over the pasta stirring so the eggs coat the noodles. Then drain the pancetta thoroughly and add it to the noodle mixture. Stir and add the Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Cookbook Review Times Two {Giveaway}

A couple new books have come out that you need to hear about. First up is Chef Stuart O’Keeffe’s new book The Quick Six Fix.

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I love the idea of having a short ingredient list to create great meals. When I opened up the book, I figured out how it all works. You start by making sure your pantry is stocked up with the basics. So many of us home cooks have most of the pantry basics, but he’s really put together a nice list that gets us covered.

I was a little confused because his recipes do have more than six ingredients; however, most will come out of your pantry basics. There will be a couple ingredients in BOLD and those will are counted as one of the “six extra” ingredients. Honestly, if you buy the pantry staples that he recommends, you will not have trouble following these recipes because the vast majority that I perused used two or three ingredients outside of the pantry basics.

I didn’t know who Chef Stuart O’Keeffe was, but he’s Irish and so that’s all I needed to know with St. Patrick’s Day coming up!

QuickSix_Pasta
Serves 4–6
PREP 6 minutes
COOK 20 minutes
CLEAN 5 minutes
  • ½ cup pecans
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried chili flakes
  • ½ pound kale, stems discarded and chopped
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 8 basil leaves, torn
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan

1. Toast pecans in a dry nonstick skillet over medium heat for 3 minutes until fragrant. Remove from skillet and chop. Set aside.
2. Add 1 teaspoon of salt to a pot of water and bring to a boil. Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the package instructs.
3. While the pasta is cooking, heat ¼ cup olive oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet until shimmering. Add the garlic and chili flakes and stir for 30 seconds until fragrant.
4. Add kale and lemon zest and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir carefully so that the kale will not fall out of the pan.
5. Add the pasta, remaining olive oil, lemon juice, basil, salt, and pepper. Toss until everything is coated.
6. Portion pasta onto plates. Sprinkle with the pecans and Parmesan cheese.

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The next cookbook I found interesting that is coming out is Power Souping: 3-Day Detox, 3 Week Weight-Loss Plan

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Yum, soup! I’m a huge soup lover, though I mostly use the crockpot for soup because I’m pinched for time during the week. I love making them and I’m happy to report my husband and oldest son love my soups. My youngest son does not normally like to try soup at home. However, at daycare/school he eats soup everyday for lunch. They report that he’s their most enthusiastic eater. Oh well, I’m confused.

I never thought about soup as a weight-loss tool, but it makes sense. I really like how this book is structured because it walks you through various types of soup detoxes with different levels of intensity. The pictures make the soups look really good and I noticed that there are also other recipes as well for salads and vegetable-based fare.

Cornchowder
MAKES 8 SERVINGS (SERVING SIZE: 1 CUP)
Vegan Gluten-free
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 medium russet potatoes, peeled and diced (about 3 cups)
  • 3 cups fresh or frozen organic corn kernels
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1½ cups plain unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • Himalayan or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat ghee in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook 10 minutes, until softened. Add the potatoes, corn, broth, and coconut milk and simmer for about 1 hour. Do not allow the soup to boil. Stir in the thyme and turmeric, if using, and cook 15 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

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To be entered to win one of these cookbooks, comment below with the name of the cookbook that you would like to win and why! Thanks! Winners will be announced on Monday March 7th.

Basic Pico de Gallo Salsa for One Family

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I spent most of my adult life being too intimidated to attempt making salsa. How crazy is that? Thankfully I figured it out and I make it as frequently as I can. My husband and my older son (who is seven) love it. My three-year-old son will not even try it, but when I was I child I didn’t like tomatoes so I’m hoping that he will change.

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Many recipes I’ve found online are for large families. I developed this recipe for a small family or maybe just one person:

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Basic Pico de Gallo Salsa 

3 Roma Tomatoes (Medium, Organic if possible)
1/2 Onion
1/2 Lime (juice only)
1/2 bunch of Cilantro
Salt

Dice tomatoes and onions, put into a large bowl. Chop up cilantro and don’t worry about the stems — you can eat them! Squeeze the juice of half a lime all over the mixture. Add salt. Stir mixture and serve with (organic) corn chips.IMG_7196

Nature’s Farm Camp

Today’s guest blog is written by Tim Magner. He is a children’s book author, food educator and dynamic teacher. While visiting more than 100 schools as a children’s book author, Tim got an up-close look at what kids were eating. He created Truck Farm Chicago, a farm-on-wheels project that connected kids to food for three years. Currently, he’s Camp Director at Nature’s Farm Camp and his cooking partner with The Kids Table

Tim hails from Chicago’s North Shore and also taught skiing to kids in Colorado, golf in North Carolina and was a camp counselor in Georgia. He’s tutored with several organizations, served on a Local School Council and was a board member at The Academy for Global Citizenship.

From a scene at a high school on the west side of Chicago:
“No, flipping way! That is not a tomato!,” shrieked a young teen, as she pulled off her blindfold. “I hate tomatoes, and this tastes awesome. I want another!”

“What do you mean they were domesticated in Central America. I thought tomatoes came from Italy?,” said a nearby student.IMG_0839

From another kid a few minutes later reading the ingredient list: “Ferrous Sulfate, Thiamin Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid,…” Even though the student had eaten Flaming Hot Cheetos as a daily ritual, the words came out awkwardly. Note: it takes several minutes to read the entire ingredient list.

We had brought Truck Farm Chicago, our bio-dieseled power farm-on-wheels for a few lessons.

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For three seasons and more than 200 visits, Petunia (as we called the Truck) was a useful prop that lent itself well to food-related programming. We received plenty of compliments from adults who would often say, “it’s great you’re getting kids to learn to make better choices.” The question we kept asking ourselves: “Is it enough?”

Often, pulling out of the school parking lot, we’d debate, “Is it right to ask the kids to make better food choices when the odds are stacked against health?” Despite an uproar from parents and community members who care about health, ‘cheap’ pizza and fries (loaded with fat, sugar and salt) remain the de facto choice in cafeterias. For many, nachos and cheese are the breakfast of choice. When chips and soda are ever present (and just pocket change), what is a ten-year-old going to choose? Kids consume empty calories, processed food from the industrial system because it’s ‘cheap,’ nearly addicting and brilliantly marketed. The costs, like pollution, toxins, and diet-related diseases such as diabetes and hypertension are ignored, or come later.

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It got me thinking. In an ideal world, good, clean, fair food would be the de facto choice. Schools would source directly with local farms. The kids would know the farmers and vice versa and food would be integrated into their education, as opposed to on the side and separate from their daily subjects. Outside of school, families would have the time, energy, skills and money to cook. Each meal would support the health of people, economies, communities, and ecosystems. Potlucks would happen all over the place! Was I dreaming? Clearly there are obstacles, but what about an interim solution that would help remove obstacles and create leverage to make change? Could we create a place that showed what’s possible?

Well, it came to us after one particular visit. “Us” was Elena Marre of The Kids’ Table, cooking partner in our Truck-FARM-TO-Kids’-TABLE school programming and me. As teachers were shepherding kids back to class, one of the students said, “I want more of this. More farming and more cooking.”

So, Nature’s Farm Camp was born. It’s a chance to fully immerse kids in all things food. A summer camp where food is at the center of programming. Where delicious, nutrient-dense local food is the de facto. Where kids craft each meal and get to explore different tastes and textures. The classroom is the kitchen and so are the farm fields (and so are the forest and the creek, where the kids roam and explore). We welcome children from all over Chicagoland, offering scholarships and financial aid to as many as possible.

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We’re only embarking on our 2nd season of Nature’s Farm Camp, but have begun talking with other summer camps about how to integrate local, nutrient dense food into their food service. Better yet, the USDA hired a full-time staffer who’s sole responsibility is evolving and growing the farm-to-school program for the Midwest. Whoo-hoo! Here’s to making awesomeness for all kids the de facto!

If you would like to support the mission, email Tim and Elena: info@naturesfarmcamp.com