Who would have thought that children would be as thrilled to eat raw vegetables as the group of 11 kids who recently graduated from the Capital Area Food Bank’s 6-week Operation Frontline Kids Up Front cooking & nutrition education program? Operation Frontline’s fun, hands-on, cooking-centered approach to food certainly changes minds, hearts and taste buds for the children involved. The classes have turned even the most adamant vegetable skeptics into veggie lovers who have begged to take home some of the healthy recipes they prepared in class so their parents could taste and prepare it with them.
Recently, children from the afterschool program at Martha’s Table toured the White House Kitchen Garden, part of a special celebration of their graduation from our Operation Frontline class series.
“Please, can I eat some? Please, please?!” Nine-year-old Randi was not begging for a sugary or salty treat, but for fresh spinach, growing in the ground and glistening from the falling rain. Our tour guide, White House Assistant Chef Sam Kass obliged her request and 11 kids from the inner city stood on the White House lawn munching fresh-picked spinach, surprised by its sweet taste — and asking for more!
Our cooking & nutrition education program works. If children take part in exploring healthy foods and preparing it with their own hands, they are likely to taste it, share it, and brag about the healthy recipes they know how to prepare. Our nutrition education staff team knows this, as do our hundreds of culinary and nutrition volunteers. The Obama administration knows this too, and that is why they welcomed our group to the Kitchen Garden and even let us visit the White House kitchen (where the chefs were preparing stuffing for holiday parties!).
Nine-year-old Tyreke shared with Chef Sam Kass his “whole wheat banana hotdog” recipe (i.e. a slice of whole wheat bread rolled around a PB&J-smothered banana) that he has been making at home, sharing what he learned about the benefits of whole grains and fiber on health. This is a great example of the kids translating what they have learned from classes into their homes!
As a follow-up to the visit of the White House Kitchen Garden, we hosted a second Reunion class last Wednesday. Volunteer culinary instructor Charmion and I (the nutrition instructor) led the kids in preparing some White House garden-inspired recipes featuring spinach: Grapple (grape & apple) spinach salad with home-made honey mustard dressing and spinach yogurt dip with toasted whole wheat pita triangles. Tyreke even demonstrated the creation of his banana hotdog recipe and taught the other children how to prepare and enjoy it. Overall, it was a great class series; we were sad to say good bye, yet excited that our Operation Frontline program made such a big impact on their children, perhaps the beginning of many of their healthy food adventures!
I hope that you’ve also had the chance to experience kids’ positive response to healthy foods. Try taking the time to invite kids into the kitchen to cook with you during the holidays this year, or perhaps make it your New Year’s resolution to volunteer for Operation Frontline! Email us to volunteer.
Ensuring that all kids in America get the healthy foods they need is a large and multi-faceted challenge and we all have a part to play — in our homes, in the community, and even in the rain and twilight on the White House lawn!
Want to hear and read more about our White House Garden trip?
- Check out our interview with NPR and see more photos