Chef in the Classroom Day!

October 05, 2010

Chef in the Classroom Day at McAuliffe School, with a veggie tasting by Chef Melissa Graham of Purple Asparagus

by Mark Bishop, HSC deputy director

I’m not sure what Michelle Obama envisioned when she launched the Chefs Move to Schools initiative as part of Let’s Move, but I believe she would smile to hear about what happened yesterday throughout Chicago at our first Chef in the Classroom Day, when 60+ chefs visited schools across the city to connect with students and share lessons about healthy eating.

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Students get ready for a healthy cooking demonstration at Ruiz School with Chef Alex Cheswick of May Street Market.

So what does a Chef in the Classroom Day consist of? Here’s my informal breakdown:

  • 67 chefs
  • 67 schools
  • 4000+ students
  • 300+ pounds of fresh vegetables (my rough estimate)
  • 1 coordinated nutrition education curriculum
  • Dozens of supportive partners

Yesterday morning, chefs fanned out to schools across the city and shared a nutrition education lesson with school children ranging from kindergarten through fourth grade. In many of the lessons, chefs conducted a veggie tasting with the kids or shared their experiences in the kitchen. Afterwards, the chefs and school principals came together for a luncheon where we discussed strategies to deepen the relationships between schools and Chicago’s culinary community.

On so many levels, the program was a success.

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Students at Peterson Elementary School try out the chef look at a healthy eating lesson from Chef Richard Lozada of Presbyterian Homes.

What struck me was the enthusiasm in the room at the luncheon. Chef after chef told me about how wonderful it was to engage with the students.

One chef told me that she was apprehensive at first and thought it would be difficult —  but once she got there, the students were so open and willing to try new foods. Another told me about the excitement when he was put in an auditorium of 250 kids! And they all said that the kids were behaved, engaged and excited to try tomatoes and broccoli.

One chef that said the principal at his school already signed him up to conduct after-school programs on healthy eating. This is what it’s supposed to be about: making connections in the community to support health and wellness.

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Chef Tony Sanfratello shares a lesson at Federico Garcia Lorca Elementary.

And this isn’t the only way that Chicago chefs have gotten involved in the effort. This summer, Chicago Public Schools reached into the culinary community to provide their food service staff with training to help prepare the healthier new CPS lunch menu. And at Cooking up Change, 17 professional chef mentors will help guide our high school culinary teams through a challenging culinary competition while giving them insight into the possibilities of future culinary careers.

Thank you to all our partners at Purple Asparagus, Chartwells Thompson, Preferred Meals, Chicago Public Schools, Common Threads, Kendall College and many, many others who helped make this event such a success.

Stay posted for updates and more photos from this exciting day!

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Public schools across Chicago participated in Chef in the Classroom Day!