As the founder of CHEFs for Schools, Inc. – a tax-exempt nonprofit organization that strives to alleviate food inequality in underserved communities by training and placing student volunteers in worthwhile service opportunities - I am proud to support CookShop, the core nutrition education program of the Food Bank For New York City.
Since CHEFs’ inception in the spring of 2007, we have made tremendous strides toward our goals of improving food security, alleviating childhood obesity, and achieving food justice by supporting equal access to affordable and nutritious groceries. Our partnership with the Food Bank has been a major factor in reaching these goals.
I learned about CookShop while working as an intern at the Food Bank in the fall of 2008. CookShop is a federally-funded nutrition education program that helps children, teens and adults develop nutrition knowledge and cooking skills through hands on workshops. The program currently reaches approximately 30,000 New Yorkers, including students in more than 1,300 public elementary school classes and after-school programs.
I quickly realized the benefits of placing volunteers in CookShop Classroom for Elementary School, the program’s component for students in pre-K through second grade. Volunteers enjoy building relationships with elementary school students in underserved neighborhoods, and seeing the impact of their work as the children develop new skills and learn to make healthy food choices. By assisting the teachers, volunteers make CookShop even easier to implement, helping to increase the number of participating classrooms.
CHEFs helps recruit CookShop volunteers through a unique cultivation program in which university chapters offer educational, free and fun events that address bring students together around a shared interest in food issues. For example, the CHEFs for Schools’ Chapter at NYU offers free monthly cooking classes that unite and educate prospective and current volunteers around delicious, nutritious meals, while the CUNY Hunter Chapter will launch a food justice speaker series in the fall.
CHEFs aim is to recruit the most capable and motivated volunteers possible. The CookShop program requires no prior experience in public schools or food preparation, welcoming a wide variety of volunteers ranging from college students to working professionals. CookShop provides all volunteers with free training to improve their understanding of food preparation skills with elementary school children and demonstrate how to support a classroom during exploratory and cooking lessons.
I hope that you will join us in our efforts. Please take a moment to review the Food Bank’s various volunteer opportunities, including CookShop, and learn more about CHEFs’s efforts to impact food justice through volunteerism.
As the holiday season draws near, we at the Food Bank have an additional reason to celebrate: the annual start of CookShop, which this year will reach record numbers of children, teens and adults throughout the city.
Our federally funded nutrition education program, CookShop helps teach low-income New Yorkers the skills and knowledge to make healthy food choices on a limited budget. Starting this December, approximately 30,000 New Yorkers – nearly twice as many as last year – will participate in hands-on workshops featuring fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
In CookShop Classroom for Elementary School, participants will find out about where food comes from (hint: it’s not the fridge or the bodega!) and use their five senses to explore food up close. Participants in CookShop for Families will learn helpful nutrition tips like how to plan healthy and affordable meals at home. But the best part of CookShop, as our participants tell us time and again, is the cooking – and, of course, the tasting! No one puts it better than Mossiah, an elementary student at P.S. 307K in Brooklyn: “I learned in CookShop that when we are done we get to eat food and it tastes good. It tastes so good. I said, MMMMM.”
We look forward to working with teachers and students in more than 1,300 CookShop classrooms in the months to come!
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.
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:
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.
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.
As today is the last day of public school in New York City, it is a perfect time to reflect on an exciting year of CookShop, the Food Bank’s nutrition education program. Our workshops for children, teens and adults reached more than 15,000 people in all five boroughs, including students in more than 700 public elementary school classrooms.
Last year, in a survey of participating teachers, more than 97 percent reported their students more likely to try a new healthy food because of CookShop, while 96 percent reported their students want to eat healthier and 92 percent said their students are making healthier food choices because of CookShop.
This year, participating principals sent letters describing their CookShop success stories, and we were thrilled to hear their rave reviews. We’re especially excited that so many people involved with CookShop will continue cooking and eating fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains at home. Here are a few of their stories:
“CookShop became a catch phrase in our building, and the amount of enthusiasm it built among our teachers and students was amazing. The children in grades pre-K to second and in our special needs class learn to make healthy, nutritious recipes that they eagerly share with their parents at home. CookShop’s lessons have students readily eating vegetables in our cafeteria that my nutritionist and our parents have told me they were not eating before. It provides a bonding experience, a motivational tool and a new way of talking about food and nutrition for our teachers, our parents and our students.
“CookShop is an essential weapon in our healthy-living, healthy-eating fight to change the obesity rates in our school and in our neighborhood.” —Harold Anderson, Principal, C.S. 21 – Crisups Attucks Elementary School
“Our cook tastes the recipes and is going to start serving [CookShop] dishes at lunch time. This program has not only taught our community about healthy eating, but it has brought our community together.…Parents are volunteering in the classroom and cooking with the staff.” —Carin Ellis, Principal, P.S. 212 Queens – School of CyberScience and Literacy
“The teachers and students love the program. I just walked into a bilingual classroom and it was the first time they have seen cauliflower and collard greens. They were amazed with the texture.” —Melissa Acevedo-Lamarca, Assistant Principal, P.S. 19 Queens
“This is the first year my school is participating in the program and we LOVE IT!!! My little kindergarten, first and second grade students enjoy Fridays when their teachers do the CookShop lessons. I often have a little visitor coming to give me a small sample of what they made in class. My kids are always eager to explain what they made and how they did it.” —Vanessa Christenses, Assistant Principal, P.S. 48 Queens – The William Wordsworth School
“This Thanksgiving my family had a potluck and we all had to bring something. My sister, who teaches second grade at a school in the Bronx, surprised us with the three-bean salsa, which she too learned to make in CookShop at her school. This was full circle for me…CookShop is touching the lives of so many near and far. It makes me smile every time I think of my sister serving a CookShop dish at Thanksgiving because she knows we all need to eat healthier.” —Dora Danner, Assistant Principal, P.S. 17 – The Henry David Thoreau School
As improving child nutrition becomes a national priority, the Food Bank is proud of CookShop’s success in moving children and families toward a healthier lifestyle — and is working to bring the program to more communities in need.
Katherine Mancera is the Food Bank's Public Education Associate. For more information on our CookShop program go to www.foodbanknyc.or/go/CookShop, or watch our CookShop video below:
It is very important to the Food Bank For New York City that all of the food we receive makes it to a New Yorker who needs it. While this is a bit of a no-brainer, making sure it happens can be more difficult than you might expect.
At times, food assistance programs can be wary of ordering certain products that they are not sure how to cook with, or if the ethnic community they serve won’t be familiar or know what to do with it.
Knowing this, our Community Nutritionist works to build awareness in our network for the benefits and potential use of different products. For just one example, here is a piece our nutritionist wrote about peanut butter for one of our Agency E-Newsletters:
While most people think of peanut butter as an American food mostly eaten by children, the origin and use of peanuts in cooking can be traced back to countries around the world and dates back as early as prehistoric times. Currently, the United States produces about 7 percent of world's peanuts, with China, India, Nigeria, Indonesia, Myanmar, Sudan, Senegal, Argentina and Vietnam also making significant contributions.
Peanuts are a highly nutritious source of plant protein, with each tablespoon serving acting as a replacement for one ounce of protein recommended in the diet. While peanuts are high in fat, they contain unsaturated fats, which provide benefits for heart health. Peanuts have also been found to be a good source of antioxidants and reservatrol, which is known for its cancer-fighting, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties.
While peanuts are commonly eaten in whole form as snacks, peanut butter has become a popular ingredient in various types of Asian cooking as well as being used in soups, sauces, casseroles and baking.
This year, almost two hundred volunteers will be doing their best to spur volunteering throughout New York City, and I am happy to count myself as one of them. The project that has brought us all together is the NYC Civic Corps, founded by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Our goal is to harness the power of New York’s population and focus it toward improving the city.
Myself and the close to 200 members of the Corps’s inaugural class have been assigned in small teams to about sixty public agencies and non-profit organizations throughout the five boroughs. For the next year, our jobs are designed to “pay it forward” while helping to create new, or develop existing, volunteer programs. Through doing this, the Civic Corps aims to strengthen our city’s network of volunteer programs and engage more New Yorkers in meaningful service, creating lasting changes in New York City
The Civic Corps is affiliated with Americorps VISTA, a national poverty reduction program; however it is unique and groundbreaking in its scale and focus. The corps is the first Americorps program with the mission to improve civic engagement throughout an entire city. At the same time, it is also the first program to foces on several local needs — including health, education and emergency preparedness. The ultimate goal for the Civic Corps is to create a model volunteer program to be adopted in cities across the nation.
Having been assigned to the Food Bank For New York City, myself and two other Civic Corps members have been given an incredible opportunity to help work towards the Food Bank’s goals. Be it childhood nutrition, tax assistance or improving community kitchens around the city, we have an opportunity to add our own small contribution to the greater good of New York City, the Food Bank and the Civic Corps.
Stay tuned for more on my role as a Civic Corps member at the Food Bank next month!
In July, the Food Bank launched the “Change One Thing” ad campaign, aimed at encouraging healthy eating among our city’s teens. While cheap, fast junk food seems to be everywhere, there is a common perception that eating healthy requires a wholesale lifestyle change.
Our ads promote the idea that you can lead a healthier life by Changing One Thing. Craving soda? Try water today. Skip those mini doughnuts this time and grab that orange! The Food Bank is also asking all New Yorkers to take our Change One Thing pledge – and help us move toward a healthier New York.
Our summer EATWISE students are taking the lead – read what they are pledging to change in their diets below. Great ideas!
“One thing I can change is to avoid fast food and eat healthy food every day. Also I can do more exercise to be healthy in myself.”
“One thing that I could change is to stop getting fatty foods out. Now I am trying to eat health food. I think I’m changing.”
“I should eat more vegetables and less meat a day.”
“One thing I changed was to stop eating McDonald’s.”
“Change: eat more vegetables, less rice and meat. Change: run for at least 20 min every day.”
Tyree W. “One healthy change I’ve made recently is drinking about 80 oz of water every day.”
Leroy Walker “I could stop eating junk food every day and eat fruit every day.”
Kiaralee “One thing I can change about my diet is consuming more water instead of juice and soda. One change I have already made is changing my portion size.”
Don Snyder “Shop at the green markets.”
Romona “Stop drinking soda. Stop eating candy. Eat more breakfast.”
Celin Concepcion “One thing that I could change in my diet is that whenever I go to the kitchen and get a snack I should get a fruit or vegetable, instead of donuts or chips and soda.”
My time at EATWISE (Educated and Aware Teens Who Inspire Smart Eating) over the summer of 2008 was an experience I will never forget. I learned valuable information regarding food and nutrition, such as micro- and macronutrients, diet-related diseases and hunger and poverty. We used what we learned to conduct nutrition-education workshops for elementary school students, and volunteered at places like the Food Bank’s Community Kitchen and Senior Food Program.
In addition to teaching about good nutrition and helping provide food to other New Yorkers, we had meals of our own every Wednesday, when we learned how to make healthy, nutritious food and snacks like maple almond granola.
EATWISE made me realize my passion for food and nutrition. I made many friends who helped make this my most memorable and unforgettable experience. Through all that we have learned and accomplished in this program, I know that I want to be a dietitian. I want to spread my love of food and nutrition, and the knowledge I have gained, to others who want to eat healthier, or who struggle with their weight. I want to impact others the way EATWISE has impacted me.