In South Carolina, an estimated 25 percent of children are obese. But the local chapter of national nonprofit Slow Food is working to remedy this epidemic with Chefs-in-Schools. Every two weeks, Cypress chef Craig Deihl visits Mitchell Elementary to teach third graders the importance of eating healthy.
“For each lesson, we pick out a protein, vegetable, fruit, or dairy product. We show the kids the different forms of the food, and then they have to decide the healthiest,” says Deihl. “For apples, I brought in 10 different varieties, then we talked about all the kinds of apple products for sale. Of course, all the kids said they wanted Apple Jacks cereal,” he laughs. But rather than simply telling the students, “Apple Jacks aren’t good for you,” the chef demonstrates how to make a nutritious snack from the fruit.
And the lessons seem to be soaking in. Following a recent ground turkey demo, eight-year-old Jacoby Johnson said he learned that “by using turkey instead of beef, we can take saturated fat out of a meal.”
“This isn’t just about cooking. It’s a science lesson, a math lesson, and a history lesson when we talk about where our food comes from,” says the chef. Slow Food plans to expand the program this year, and Sarah O’Kelley of Glass Onion has already signed on.
Ultimately, helping kids form good eating habits is the goal. Says Deihl, “Their minds are sponges, they will listen, and they can influence their family’s food choices.”