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BANK ON IT: Food Bank For New York City's Blog

Infectious Enthusiasm: A CookShop Teacher

Although this is only Daisy Carusillo’s second year implementing the Food Bank’s CookShop Classroom curriculum at PS 24 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, she handles the job like an old pro.

I recently had the pleasure of seeing Daisy in action as she instructed a roomful of new CookShop teachers at a training session one evening this fall. After a full day in their own classrooms, the teachers had arrived looking a little weary. But as Daisy led a mock Chef Lesson (a cooking activity in which students help prepare nutritious, kid-friendly recipes) it was clear that these lessons are her favorite part of the CookShop Classroom curriculum – and it was impossible for the tired teachers to resist Daisy’s infectious energy and humorous anecdotes. Plus, it didn’t hurt that the tangy batch of Peachy Orange Salsa they were preparing smelled so great.

“This is where nutrition education takes on a whole new life,” Daisy said. “The actual handling of the produce, the chopping, the dicing, mixing, the smells…does so much for the building of community.”

CookShop Chef Lessons give elementary-school children an opportunity to try healthy fruits and vegetables in a learning environment, Daisy said, while the Explorer and Discovery Lessons reinforce other academic areas such as reading, math and science skills.

“One of my favorite [Chef Lesson] memories is when a student was so proud of her dish – it looked so colorful, and it was so flavorful – she wanted to take some to the principal so she could taste it,” Daisy said.

But like all learning experiences, some can be a little jarring at first. When Daisy’s students were told carrots comprised the root of a plant, “they were so shocked, they weren’t sure if they wanted to continue eating [the Carrot Raisin Salad].”

Daisy said the students were more willing to taste the Three-Bean Salad and Apple Dipper recipes, but, she said, all CookShop lessons help serve a child’s personal development.

“Children who develop adequate cooking skills and nutritional knowledge are more likely to make healthier food choices later in life,” Daisy said.

And it’s that kind of insight – rather than the number of years’ experience -- that makes Daisy Carusillo an expert CookShop teacher.

CookShop Gets Cooking: Inside CookShop’s Annual Conference

By Leah Kohlenberg

Last week, the Food Bank kicked off the 18th year of our signature nutrition education program with a day-long conference, training teachers and educators to bring our CookShop program to students and parents in public schools throughout New York City.

A testament to the Food Bank’s continued commitment to nutrition education, CookShop will now be bringing the knowledge and tools to adopt a healthy diet on a limited budget to more than 135,000 low-income children, teens and adults through interactive workshops and peer-led social marketing.

This year, the Food Bank was proud to introduce important updates to CookShop. The CookShop Classroom for Elementary School curriculum, for example, now links nutrition education lessons directly to core subjects like math, language arts and science, and, importantly, to the school meals children have access to every day. CookShop for Families not only engages parents and guardians in workshops that complement the Classroom curriculum, it now also incorporates important skills like budgeting and meal planning.

This year’s keynote speakers – USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Kevin Concannon and United Federation of Teachers (UFT) President Mike Mulgrew – joined Food Bank President and CEO Margarette Purvis at the conference, showing their support and appreciation for the teachers, parent coordinators and school staff who make CookShop a reality.

“We live in challenging times, and teachers can play such a vital role, not only in ensuring that children won’t go hungry, but that they also eat healthy foods,” said Under Secretary Concannon.

Remembering the recipe prepared during his visit to a CookShop for Families workshop in the Bronx, Michael Mulgrew told us, “I don’t know what it’s called, but I still make it.” The UFT President further praised the hands-on CookShop curriculum for making learning accessible to all students, including those in special education.

Perhaps best of all, the conference gives us a great opportunity to hear from the CookShop teachers and educators directly about what they most value in the program.

”This is an excellent idea - to link [the lessons] to math, science and language arts,” said six-year CookShop veteran Millie Peguero, referring to recent updates to the curricula she will be implementing in her Manhattan kindergarten class. “We’ve already noticed that the apple lesson, for example, coincided with a science lesson on fruits of the season, so we use that as the science lesson that day.”

Friend, Role Model, Teacher: Learning & Cooking Together

By Ivette Paulino

There was the shy one that didn’t make any eye contact with me, a stranger. There was a class clown making funny faces to make everybody laugh, and a sophisticated one that had a fancy posture while sitting and eating.

It was my first day at the Chelsea Recreation Center, the day I first met the after-school kids I would be teaching last summer as part of my CookShop for Teens (EATWISE) internship. As I entered the classroom, I was immediately able to recognize some of the kids’ personalities.

The first lesson of the Food Bank’s CookShop Classroom for After-School nutrition education program is “Meet MyPyramid MyPlate and the Food Groups .” The kids were busy eating a snack, so to get their attention I asked a question: “What are some examples of fruits?” The kids stopped eating, and hands shot into the air.

One little boy surprised me, raising both of his hands high. “What’s your name?” I asked. “Luke!” I felt Luke’s energy and enthusiasm, so I had to choose him. He answered, “Banana!” He had confidence written on his face – and on both of his hands.

Seeing how excited the kids were to answer my question, I felt so proud of myself for overcoming my fear of talking in front of a crowd and suddenly couldn’t wait to keep on doing so for the next six weeks.

When I started CookShop, I expected to learn a lot about food and nutrition. But I never expect to learn how to express myself with confidence, so that my voice can be heard. From that day on I was able to step up and talk to the kids as a friend, a role model and a teacher. And I hope I helped the kids see how fun and easy it can be to lead healthy lives.

Ivette is a senior at the Community Health Academy of the Heights, participating in our EATWISE internship for teens. EATWISE gives young people the knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about what they eat and drink, and trains them to become peer nutrition educators.

New CookShop Curriculum sets the table with MyPlate

by Zac Hall

For this school year, the Food Bank’s CookShop Classroom for Elementary School curriculum is getting a fresh new makeover!

We always strive to improve our hands-on CookShop nutrition education program so that the more than 30,000 participating New York City children, teens and adults get the best possible education about how to cook and eat healthfully.

Our new CookShop Classroom for Elementary School curriculum focuses on integrating nutrition and food exploration into everyday, routine activities for children – if kids talk and think about new foods and food choices on a daily basis, it gets easier to keep thinking about and making healthy choices.

First things first: Where does food come from? Our new curriculum starts at the farm, so that children know exactly where their food comes from before it lands in a supermarket aisle or their refrigerator. Students also discuss common food sources in New York City (like farmers markets, grocery stores and bodegas) so they can make healthful food choices anywhere they find food.

This year’s curriculum will also focus on school meals, using the foods that kids are already familiar with in the school setting as an extra learning tool. . Students will identify the healthy foods on their breakfast and lunch plates, discuss their farm roots and learn about their nutritional benefits, so that their everyday food experiences become learning experiences.

Speaking of plates: Our new curriculum stars the USDA’s new nutrition icon, MyPlate. MyPlate encourages people to think about building a healthy plate at meal times. Each educational unit of CookShop features one MyPlate food group: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (and other plant proteins) and low-fat dairy products. The best part: after learning about these foods’ benefits, the kids prepare and taste delicious and nutritious recipes with them. Yum!

We are excited to start reaching a new wave of New Yorkers with our message of healthy cooking and eating! Check back throughout the year for first-hand stories from our students, teachers and Food Bank staff.

Reflections on a Year of Nutrition Education

by Justin Crum 

Summer is always a bittersweet time of year for us on the CookShop team.

CookShop Classroom for Elementary School helps children gain the knowledge and skills needed to make and appreciate healthy choices.

After school lets out in June, our CookShop Classroom for Elementary School nutrition workshops go into hibernation until school starts up again in the fall.  During the summer months we miss seeing and hearing about the learning adventures of our youngest students as they discover new healthy foods.

As blogger Matt Gustafson recently wrote, the final CookShop “celebration” lesson has been held, giving students a chance to review and celebrate all they learned in CookShop this year. From the parts of a plant to nutrients, kitchen skills and sensory vocabulary, our students have a lot to reflect on!

Though the school year has ended, it doesn’t mean our students stop learning and sharing. They have all been sent home with CookShop Certificates and nutrition newsletters so they can share their newfound knowledge with friends and families. And this summer, our students will likely be spending time in supermarkets, farmers markets and kitchens with their families, so they’ll have plenty of places to practice what they’ve learned. Maybe they’ll even get to help out in the kitchen!

Justin CrumThough CookShop Classroom for Elementary School is on summer break, stay tuned for news about our other CookShop components — including CookShop Classroom for After-School and CookShop for Teens (EATWISE) — that are running strong all summer!

Justin Crum is the Youth Development Manager for EATWISE, the Food Bank's CookShop for Teens program.

Mario Batali & Food Bank Cook Up New Nutrition Initiative

By Josh Wessler,

This week, in a joint venture with the Mario Batali Foundation, the Food Bank is launching an exciting new nutrition and health education program, Community CookShop, at food pantries and soup kitchens across the city.

The Community CookShop pilot program breaks new ground for the Food Bank. For the first time, our nutrition workshops will pair parents and caregivers with their children to learn and cook together. Also a first, the workshops will be available at several of our member programs — food pantries and soup kitchens — in all five boroughs. And finally, it is our first time partnering with the Mario Batali Foundation.

The Food Bank and the Mario Batali Foundation share a belief in the power of hands-on learning to equip families for a healthier future. Based on that belief, Community CookShop engages whole families in practicing strategies to get the most food at the best quality for the lowest cost. Community CookShop is modeled on the Food Bank’s successful CookShop program, the largest provider of nutrition education in New York City public schools. Like CookShop, the new Community program will use hands-on activities to enhance participants’ skills for maximizing their food budgets, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preparing tasty recipes.

All recipes for Community CookShop have been crafted by internationally-renowned chef, author and restaurateur, Mario Batali, who is also a dedicated member of Food Bank’s Board of Directors, the chair of our Culinary Council and an active proponent of child nutrition. All of Mario's CookShop recipes use nutritious, affordable ingredients that are available in local stores and food pantries throughout the city.

"Having been on the board and working with Food Bank for over 10 years, I feel honored and privileged to partner with them on this important step towards improving nutrition education,” said Mario Batali. “The Food Bank's strong ties in the community will undoubtedly make huge strides for many deserving families in NYC and hopefully help lead the way for the entire nation.”

Lucy Cabrera, President and CEO of the Food Bank, said, “We are thrilled to partner with the Mario Batali Foundation on this important nutrition initiative. Thanks to the Foundation’s generous support, we will now be reaching even more families, in their own communities, providing them with lifelong skills to create and sustain a healthier future.”

The Food Bank’s integrated services — food distribution, income support and nutrition education — help New York City families keep healthful food on the table through the toughest times.

Josh Wessler is CookShop Classroom Associate at the Food Bank. For more information about Community CookShop or to get involved, email

As Schools Close, Summer Meals Opens

By Roxanne Henry,

New York City kids have now been on summer break for a full week. While more than a million children across the city are most likely still celebrating their newfound freedom, for parents and caregivers who struggle to afford food, this can be a time of heightened anxiety and concern. To get the most out of limited food budgets, many families depend on free or low-cost school meals for their children when school is in session. It’s no coincidence that the summer months see a spike in need among children at food pantries and soup kitchens.

Breakfast at a soup kitchen.
But with approximately 825,000 New York City public school students qualifying for free or reduced-price school meals, emergency food alone cannot make up the loss. The federally funded Summer Food Services Program (SFSP, also known as Summer Meals), however, provides a free breakfast and lunch at schools and other venues throughout the city, and is available to all children. Because too many families do not access the program due to a simple lack of awareness, the Food Bank For New York City works to connect low-income families to this great resource that helps keep food on the table for their children when school meals are not available.

To increase awareness and participation, the Food Bank:

  • Works with the NYC Department of Education to recruit members of our citywide network of soup kitchens and food pantries to help provide summer meals at their sites.
  • Provides information about the program, and the locations of SFSP sites to  all food assistance programs in our network, creating a broad outreach effort within New York City’s low-income neighborhoods.
  • Collaborates with a coalition of governmental agencies and anti-hunger organizations to aid in a citywide collaboration to expand the program.

The Food Bank’s goal is to ensure that as many children as possible receive free summer meals, which are also available at schools, parks, libraries, pools and other sites across the city.

For a full list of Summer Meals sites, click here. Wondering which site is closest to you? Check out our maps of site locations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens. To learn more about the Food Bank’s comprehensive efforts to fight child hunger throughout the year, click here. Roxanne Henry is the Food Bank’s Community Outreach Manager.

Nutrition Ed Boot Camp Launches Exciting Changes for CookShop

By Carly Rothman Siditsky

Big changes are coming to CookShop this year, with big impact for New York City students and families struggling to make healthy, affordable food choices.

CookShop is the Food Bank For New York City’s largest nutrition education program, helping children, teens and adults gain the knowledge and skills to make nutritious food choices on a limited budget. On Saturday, at a daylong nutrition education boot camp, the Food Bank trained nearly 1,000 New York City public elementary school teachers and staff to implement the program.

The Food Bank also debuted a new name for CookShop’s component for parents and caregivers, CookShop for Families, and announced an exciting joint effort with SchoolFood to bring CookShop foods into school cafeterias. These changes could have especially far-reaching impact this year, as CookShop nearly doubles in size from approximately 15,000 to 28,000 participants.

Held at the headquarters of the United Federation of Teachers, Saturday’s training was the largest such event in CookShop’s 17-year history. Karen Alford, the UFT’s Vice President for Elementary Schools, and Chris Proctor, the organization’s Director of Health and Safety, were on hand to welcome attendees to the event, joining Áine Duggan, the Food Bank’s Vice President for Research, Policy and Education, and Jeannie Fournier, the Food Bank’s Director of Nutrition and Health Education.

Mildred Peguero, a kindergarten teacher at P.S./I.S. 180M who has implemented CookShop in her classroom for the past five years, also welcomed attendees to the training, sharing her own insights about the program’s impact. CookShop integrates well with the core subject areas like math, science and language arts, she said, adding she’s always impressed to hear her kindergarteners use sophisticated concepts to talk about nutrition.

“They know what they’re eating, and why it’s good for them. They know where the plants come from, and it’s not the store,” she said. The bottom line: “They have learned how to eat healthier.”

Saturday’s nutrition education boot camp featured hands-on cooking lessons and engaging nutrition seminars, through which participants develop the nutrition knowledge and cooking and food safety skills they will pass on to their students when the program begins in December. This year, CookShop will be taught in approximately 1,300 public elementary school classrooms and after-school programs.

But CookShop’s impact will also reach beyond the classroom. CookShop for Families (formerly CookShop for Adults) is offered in schools that implement CookShop Classroom for Elementary School. With workshops that complement the children’s curricula, CookShop for Families’ new name emphasizes its core goal: involving whole families in preparing meals and choosing food. Similarly, CookShop’s partnership with SchoolFood aims to engage entire school communities in the program’s lessons about why and how to eat wholesome foods including fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

CookShop Classroom Featured by International News Network

by Carly Rothman Siditsky

Last year, more than 700 New York City public school classrooms participated in CookShop Classroom. the Food Bank’s federally funded nutrition education program for elementary-school students. Recently, one CookShop classroom in Brooklyn was featured in a report by a major international news network!

The report by Al Jazeera English shows how CookShop uses hands-on activities to get young children excited about eating nutritious foods, especially in low-income neighborhoods where access to healthy food is scarce. CookShop gives students the nutrition information and food-preparation skills to make healthy food choices on their own, and also offers complementary programming for parents and caregivers.

All of the training, materials, food and support needed to implement CookShop are provided to eligible public elementary schools free of charge. In a survey last year, 92 percent of participating New York City public school teachers said their students were making healthier food choices because of CookShop.

The Food Bank thanks PS 133K, the William Butler Academy, for being an outstanding CookShop school. Interested in bringing CookShop to your school? Learn more about the program and download an application!

Check out this video to see what makes CookShop so exciting:

Without School Lunch & Breakfast, Kids Need Summer Meals

by Roxanne Henry

Last week my nephew completed kindergarten, and began his summer vacation along with all the other children in the New York City public school system. It was an exciting week for sure, but also the week that hundreds of thousands of schoolchildren lost access to free and low-cost school breakfast and lunch. Instead of wondering which camp or summer activities their children should partake in, many of these families will have to worry about having enough food to eat during the summer.

As an aunt, I am very involved in my nephew’s life. Playing an integral role in a child’s development underscores the importance of alleviating harsh realities like child hunger. This reality makes my role as the Food Bank’s Community Outreach Manager so important: I advocate for better access to federal Child Nutrition Programs like the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP, or Summer Meals).

Recognizing that more children rely on emergency food during the summer, we work with the NYC Department of Education to recruit members of our citywide network of soup kitchens and food pantries to help provide summer meals at their sites. The Food Bank will support these sites by assisting with community outreach, developing activities to promote participation and providing additional program support. Our goal is to ensure that as many children as possible receive free summer meals, which are also available at schools, parks, libraries, pools and other sites across the city.

My hope is that, with support from the Food Bank and SFSP, New York City children will only have to think about where they want to play this summer, and not where their next meal may come from.

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