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

Teens Teaching Teens Part 4: A Successful Project Indeed!

By Russell Gee

As you know if you have been reading this blog over the spring, the Food Bank’s EATWISE nutrition education interns completed a project to raise awareness for healthy breakfasts at our high schools this year – with in-class presentations, marketing materials, social media efforts and more. We wanted this project to make a real difference on our peers’ health and diets, but how would we define success and know that we were actually influencing our peers?

To me, if my peers could demonstrate that they learned something and thought the information was useful, then this would be a successful spring project. I realized the spring project made a difference when I talked to my friend Ryan. He was excited to try and make one of the healthful breakfast recipes we presented. My other friend, Kaitlin, even told me that she was eating breakfast more often and was careful to make healthier breakfast choices. To see my friends actually learn something and make changes to how they eat because of what we presented was very rewarding.

The presentation itself was also an interesting experience for me. It was different than just presenting a paper . Our EATWISE breakfast project included full-fledged presentations - with scripts, a slideshow, games and information used to educate others about breakfast. The experience itself was like viewing a kaleidoscope, as I was able to experience what it is like to be a teacher and having to expect that anything could occur.

For me, one of the most memorable parts of the presentation was when we informed a class that skipping breakfast could actually cause you to gain weight rather than lose weight. (That’s because …) Seeing the surprise and intrigue on their faces was priceless. Overall, being able to reach more than 900 of our peers, through in-class presentations, school announcements, marketing materials and social media content – all of which we created ourselves - gives me and my fellow interns a great sense of accomplishment. Our project showed how one can change their perspective so slightly and get something worthwhile in exchange.

Teens Teaching Teens Part 2: Getting the Message Right

By Russell Gee, Kamilah Newton, Elif Ajredini and Aditi Rai

As our friends in the deliverables group wrote a couple weeks ago, the Food Bank’s EATWISE nutrition education interns are running on a project to educate our peers on the importance of eating a balanced breakfast. Changing just one thing in your diet can make a big difference and is super simple. We’ve done it and they can do it too – and when our project reminds our peers that eating breakfast can have a real impact on their energy, productivity and overall focus, we’ll be working hard to make sure they listen up!

As the marketing group, we want to capture our peers’ attention and connect breakfast to situations that teens actually experience, like studying for a test. We’ve produced our own flyers, with fun fonts and great images, and even a marketing script for our peers to use when conducting classroom announcements to promote our Twitter and Tumblr pages. At the very end of our presentations our peers will make a pledge to Change One Thing in their diet, and we will create a pledge wall with all of their responses. This will definitely be exciting and we can’t wait until we can share it with all of you!

We want our peers to have fun learning! If they ask a lot of questions, then we’ll know they’re engaged, fully captivated and want to learn more! We want to convince them to Change One Thing and let them know that it’s not hard to make minor changes to their eating habits. No change is too small!

Personally, I’ve learned a lot about teamwork, and the power of consideration. Our group has open discussions and we all share our opinions. We’re not always on the same page, but we make compromises and our work looks great because we’re working together. It feels good knowing that everyone has contributed to the project and we are producing something that makes us proud!

Bringing Breakfast Back

By Rachael Cusick, Serena Rivera, Celin Conception and Nafisatou Cisse

Do you ever wonder what people really know or think about nutrition? So do we! As part of the Food Bank’s EATWISE internship , we kicked off this school year by designing a survey to find out exactly what our peers know, or want to know, about nutrition. After reviewing student feedback from the 9 EATWISE high schools our team members attend , we noticed that a high number of teens don’t know enough about what types of food to eat in the morning. Based on that information, it was clear to everyone in EATWISE that our Spring 2012 school outreach project should be to raise awareness about the benefits of eating a healthful breakfast, with a focus on the importance of portion sizes.

To conquer our goal, we divided into four groups: Social Media, Presentation, Marketing and – our group – Deliverables. Our group’s role is to put together nutrition materials that students at our high schools can take home with them. So far, we have developed a Breakfast in Your Pocket recipe book and a guide to fruit food map to provide our peers with an easy way to access healthful, quick, and super tasty recipes. Just a few of the exciting things the other groups are working on are writing and delivering morning announcements in our schools, building social networking pages and designing fun, interactive classroom activities like MyPlate relay races.. By the end of March, we will have put the final touches on our project and will get the chance to present it in our schools throughout New York City.

We're really excited to show off all of our hard work and promote our healthful breakfast campaign to other teens – and even teachers. To keep up with our progress, watch out for the blog entries we will be posting every other week!

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.

CookShop Graduation in an NYC Elementary School

by Matt Gustafson,

Just a couple weeks ago, in public elementary schools across New York City, approximately 28,000 students are celebrating their “graduation” from CookShop as the 2010-11 program came to a close.

The Food Bank’s hands-on nutrition education program, CookShop reaches low-income children, teens and families with skills and knowledge to help them eat healthy on a limited budget. At P.S. 76 in Queens, students marked the end of this year’s CookShop program with a special awards ceremony and celebration, which was a great time for the kids (and for me!).

Wearing homemade construction and tissue paper chef hats, all the students in CookShop Classroom for Elementary School filed into the auditorium. After a short introduction by teachers, the festivities began.

First, the performances. Three classes took the stage and sang “Parts of a Plant,” to the tune of “Wheels on the Bus.” A staple in the CookShop curriculum, the song helps students learn and remember — as the title hints — the parts of a plant. Next they belted out “Grow Your Plants,” set to the music of “Row Your Boat,” describing all the things plants need to grow. The performances rounded out with a play about the life cycle of plants, with students acting out the various components of plant growth: soil, sun and water. (Our curriculum also includes a very adorable dance to illustrate the plant life cycle.)

After each student received his or her certificate for completing CookShop, it was time for the grand finale: a game show in which students from each class showed off all their CookShop nutrition knowledge to their fellow classmates.

Principal Mary Schafenburg told me CookShop has had such a profound effect on the school that when it came time for P.S. 76 to become a magnet school this year, CookShop helped inspire their decision to focus on nutrition and wellness. The school’s theme, “From Seed to Plate,” educates students that food doesn’t come from the grocery store but from the earth (a lesson CookShop emphasizes, too).

As part of their new health focus, the school has a partnership with Brooklyn Grange, a rooftop garden students can visit and work in. The school is also in the process of building a greenhouse nearby. And most recently, they created a walking day in which all the students were given pedometers to chart how far they walk each day and promote activity and healthy exercise.

Matt GustafsonAll in all, it was wonderful to see the kids at P.S. 76 have such a blast and take pride in their CookShop learning, their cooking skills and their excitement about their future pursuits in healthy living and eating.

Matt Gustafson, Site Monitor, ensures the proper evaluation and implementation of the various CookShop components throughout the five boroughs.

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

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