Chef Lynda Rexroat, Executive Director of Cooking with Kids Foundation, has been working and teaching for over fourteen years to improve the health of children in the Tri-valley area through her hands on cooking classes. Her classes, presented in schools and afterschool programs, offer children, preschool through early teens, the opportunity to select prepare and enjoy healthful snacks and meals that are easy, satisfying and affordable.
Chef Lynda believes that parents need to be on the front line defending their children against the current epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes that threaten American children today. According to Chef Lynda, children “take” to cooking naturally and enthusiastically eat what they prepare. The pilot programs conducted by CWKF over the past two years show that parents shopping enjoy shopping with their children watching them prepared food under Chef Lynda’s direction.
When the USDA (US Department of Agriculture) released its newest standards for school lunches on February 1, 2012, the first change in fifteen years, both parents and children alternately cheered and groaned. It seems we win a few and we lose a few...
The changes are primarily practical implementations of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Simply stated:
· Kids will be offered both fruits and vegetables every day of the week, (Remember when catsup was classed as a vegetable?)
· Portions of whole grain-rich foods will be increased substantially
· Only fat-free and low-fat milk varieties will be offered
· Proper portion sizes for the age of the child served will control or limit calories
· Focus is on reducing the amounts of saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.
Most parents are already making some of these changes at home with varying degrees of success. So this is good, right? I think we need to look a bit deeper. Pizza can still be on the menu once a week, classed as a vegetable. French fries will be found, also no more than once a week. Some critics say these two foods were included because of pressure from such foods producers as ConAgra, Schwans and other – large suppliers of school lunch programs.
First Lady Michelle Obama announced the new meal standards during a guest appearance at Parklawn elementary school in Alexandria, Virginia. The President and the First Lady have advocated strongly for passing the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, and USDA is now in step with them to focus on the twin issues of childhood obesity and hunger. Or should I say both the President and first Lady and the USDA are finally approaching Chef Lynda in focusing on children’s health.
Lou Ann Berardi
It was early Sunday morning and my 7 year old was softly tapping me on the shoulder to wake me up. He softly asks, “Papai can we make breakfast in bed for Mamae?” I turn and look at my wife sleeping soundly and look back at my son and say, “Let’s do it.” We go out to the kitchen and I ask him what he is thinking he wants to make for breakfast. “Pancakes, I want to add some orange rind and some of that Raspberry Syrup to the mix, we also have fresh strawberries we can cut up and give Mamae something special today.”
This type of thinking is becoming common place in the household. He is now discovering and inventing different ways to create flavor and spicing in many of the foods we cook. On this morning it was pancakes but he makes suggestions for many other things which I indulge whole heartedly. Sometimes they work, sometimes not, but after teaching him how to cook for the last 3 years he is thinking like a chef and that makes my heart feel so wonderful.
When you mention the idea of cooking with kids to people the image that invariably comes up in their minds is that of baking chocolate chip cookies or making Rice Crispy treats. The raised eyebrows and knee jerk reactions from parents when you explain that you really teach your child how to cook are commonplace. From my personal experience the rewards that both the parent and child gain are extraordinary. For me the quality time is irreplaceable and we talk about nutrition, flavor, healthy eating along with virtually everything else. When boys are concentrating on something else the information you get in the conversation is honest and it just flows. Those things that boys don’t normally open up about when you ask direct questions now just comes out naturally.
For my son, he feels empowered to experiment in the kitchen (with my oversight of course) and he wants to eat what he helps create. So green beans, broccoli, spinach, squash and more are all now standard fare at dinner, he wants to try new stuff and his palette in all things is diverse. He may not like everything but he does not shy away from new dishes. He doesn’t realize it but these skills will last him a lifetime. Eating healthy, having balanced meals, cooking from scratch are all being taught to him without him even knowing it.
By the way the pancakes were remarkable. Not only did he make mom’s day with a fantastic breakfast in bed that was out of the blue for no reason other than he wanted to make her happy, but his self satisfaction of thinking and creating such an amazing meal will grow his confidence in many other areas outside of just the kitchen.
Cooking with Kids Foundation
The Directors of Cooking with Kids all contribute to our Blog and each comes with a different skill set and point of view. Here you can find information on nutrition, cooking technique, tips to get kids to eat healthy and much more.