Powerful Messages

Recipe for Success
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foodmarketing.jpgThe very creation of Recipe for Success Foundation stemmed from Gracie Cavnar's anger at the powerful marketing dollars being levered to pedal junk food to kids.   

To help parents and teachers inspire their kids to resist the lure of junk food marketing, we created farmers marKIDS, a free curriculum that teaches children about the whole food chain from farm to grocery store and nutures their entrieprenurial spirit by guiding them through the process of turning their fresh garden produce into a market stand business.  Read more about farmers marKIDS and get your free curriculum.

And as part of our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ programs in schools, we created an in-depth curriculum called Eat This!, designed to teach kids exactly how food is marketed to them, so that they could become discerning customers.  Our Affiliate Partners in Houston and across the country can provide Eat This! as an after school, in school or summer camp program and we offer it at RecipeHouse each year. Read More about our Eat This! Summer Camp.

So we spend a lot of time making sure kids understand the power of marketing.  Now Recipe for Success has teamed up with the Center for Science in the Public Interest to take a look at U.S. standards for advertising food to kids.  Food marketing to children affects their preferences and diets, which is why 18 companies participate in the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative. But how successful are those efforts to protect children from unhealthy food ads? To find out, Recipe for Success Foundation is collaborating with the Center for Science in the Public Interest to compare American nutrition standards for food marketing to those recently adopted by the WHO for Europe.

Working with Margo Wootan, CSPI's Director of Nutrition Policy, and Jessica Almay, Senior Nutrition Policy Counsel, the Recipe for Success team, with assistance from our Dietetic Interns analyzed more than 200 kid-oriented food products to see whether they would meet new WHO nutrition standards for advertising to children. Our goal is to publish the results in a leading peer-reviewed journal.

"It can be hard for kids to eat well in America today--and all the ads on TV don't help," says Jessica Almy. "Companies believe that Frosted Flakes, Happy Meals, and Fruit by the Foot are healthy enough to advertise to American kids. Our study looks at whether foods advertised to kids in the U.S. would meet WHO nutrition standards for Europe.

Recipe for Success Foundation is a valued partner in our shared efforts to protect children from unhealthy food ads," says Almy. "We are happy to have this opportunity to collaborate on this research project."  Visit the Center for Science in the Public Interest at www.cspinet.org.

"Pie", a poem by Rich Levy

Recipe for Success
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Dinner Convo2 post #1.jpgHow mollifying, late afternoon, when one is alone
and lunch is long over, to stop at the cafeteria

for a slice of key lime pie. You take a table
by the window and turn your back to the room

as if you have much to think about, when in reality
you are staring blankly at an almost rainy blank

sky and the windblown gestures of trees. You don't
linger, eating deliberately, carving each forkful

into equal parts topping and filling, which
together create tiny bifurcated hillocks of cloud

and meadow with a sandy crust below,
the topping the color of fine creamery butter,

the filling a green so pale, so diluted, its hue
is almost invisible. The ice water you sip

with your pie lends an appropriate austerity
to the occasion. There are others here:

the tall bleached blonde and her mother stirring
their coffee, the khakied group from an office

overearnestly eating a late lunch, the cashier
leafing through her newspaper. When you rise,

brush off your lap, and pause to take stock
of the one untouched dollop of cream

on your plate (obeisance to the pie gods),
your crumpled napkin, fork, and the old

airport parking tag you fished out of your
wallet when you paid the cashier, it is as if

you were never here, you never ate this slice
of pie, you never sat in this chair, chewing

and watching nothing out the window, thinking
of nothing except how finite pie is.


Recipe for Success
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Diane Wardfor blog.jpegMEET OUR AUGUST VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH! Diana read about us last spring in The Houston Chronicle's special Houston Gives issue spotlighting our city's wonderful charities and the state of philathropy (read story) and decided we were a perfect fit for her passions. "I can identify with eating the right kinds of foods from my own journey to better health." Cheerful and hardworking, we love the way she connects with our EatThis! summer campers. Now she is scheduling her fall around volunteering in our school classrooms to help us deliver Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ to elementary students. Thank you Diane for helping us change the way children eat!  Find out more about how to volunteer HERE.

Kids' Newsworthy Snacks

Recipe for Success
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Leather Jackets at Revival 1 copy.jpgOur Eat This! Summer Camp sparked the interest of several media outlets in August. Dozens of enthusiastic 8-to-11 years olds learned about the food business with us, especially how food is marketed to them, so that they will always be able to discern the difference between promotional language on the front of the box and the facts on the side.  The kids spent their camp week at RecipeHouse developing a great-tasting healthy food product to sell at Revival Market.  Ryan Pera and his team at Revival selected a winning product to produce and feature on their retail shelves throughout August and September with all proceeds donated to Recipe for Success.

A BIG thank you to Chef Pera for supporting our campers and the Foundations efforts to change the way kids eat! The "Fruit Leather Jacket" (roll-ups made of peaches, honey, carrot and lemon juice), won out over "Melony Mist" (a sparkling watermelon aqua fresca).  Stop by Revival Market to pick yours up and read some of the great coverage in Culture Map and The Houston Chronicle.

Start the Day Healthy

Recipe for Success
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Granola.jpgYep, its that time of year again SCHOOL DAYS.  The morning hustle of rousting sleepy heads from bed, getting dressed, throwing down breakfast, finding the backpack and out the door to beat the bell.  But in the flurry of activity, we encourage you to pay some attention to breakfast.  According to a 2005 study published in "Physiology and Behavior," eating a healthy breakfast in the morning has beneficial effects on memory -- particularly short-term -- and attention, allowing children to more quickly and accurately retrieve information. Children who eat breakfast perform better on reading, arithmetic and problem-solving tests. Eating breakfast also positively affects endurance and creativity in the classroom, reports Abdullah Khan in his 2006 dissertation for Murdoch University on the relationship between breakfast and academic performance.

Here's our idea of a healthy start to the day that you and the kids can make together over the weekend and enjoy all week long.  If you're running behind, throw the granola in a paper cup to eat on the way.

GRANOLA (Yield 3 cups)


  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds
  • ½ cup cranberries
  • 2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 3 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoon honey


  • Preheat oven to 350°F and line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  • Combine oats, seeds, dried cranberries, pumpkin pie spice and salt in a large bowl.
  • In a separate medium bowl, whisk together coconut oil, brown sugar, honey and vanilla. Add to oat mixture and stir until coated.
  • Pour the mixture onto the prepared sheet pan. Spread the mixture evenly on the sheet pan.
  • Cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven. Stir the granola. Return the pan to the oven. Cook for 5 more minutes.
  • Remove from the oven. Let cool completely.

Have an entire week of healthy breakfasts:

  • Try it plain
  • Over Greek yogurt
  • OR...microwave your favorite fruit for 2 minutes and top with this awesome granola!!!

Art of Food-a Tasty Party

Recipe for Success
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greg-small-portrait.jpgOn September 27th, Greg Martin of Bistro Menil (pictured here) along with 20 more of Houston's delicious chefs, 20 remarkable artists, and a dozen delectable boutique wines, sprits and craft beer makers, will gather at The Four Seasons Houston to dazzle the senses of party goers at the final celebration of our 10th Anniversary.  Tickets from $250 per person and tables from $1500 are available by CLICKING HERE.

Introducing Amy Scott

Recipe for Success
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Amy Scott.jpgOur new Hope Farm Manager, Amy Scott started volunteering at the food pantry in Pasadena, California, right out of college.  Because she thought the pantry should offer healthier choices, Amy decided she needed to learn how to grow fresh produce and improve their offerings. Little did she know, that her deep concern about food security issues would propel her to seek greener fields and better produce--first in northern California, then east in New York and New Jersey where she discovered the secret to coaxing maximum productivity from small scale farms using organic methods, as well as a new beau who was a Princeton lad. When that Texas boy  managed to lure her to the Third Coast to try her hand in our East Texas gumbo, she tripped across Recipe for Success Foundation's new Hope Farms project as if it was her predetermined fate. Highly committed and driven by the pursuit of perfection, Amy has learned in dealing with Mother Nature's whims that having a well-developed sense of humor is very important.  She is most excited about this new challenge of building a farm from the ground up and empowering the surrounding community with fresh food.  "I've come full circle from the Food Pantry," she muses.  Welcome Amy!

Locavore chefs share their skills

Recipe for Success
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Ruffy_Sulaiman_p0838v.jpgDateline May 6, 2016 Houstonia Magazine:  Locavore chefs share their skills with kids--and foodie adults. Once a month, chef Ruffy Sulaiman goes to MacGregor Elementary School. He got his own elementary education long ago in Lagos, Nigeria, but he says that doesn't keep him from learning on his regular visits with students. "Because of what the kids are doing at the school, growing their own things, I've started looking into growing some plants in-house," he says. In his role as executive chef at the Hilton Americas, Sulaiman is currently working to start a rooftop garden that will supply the kitchen at 1600 Bar + Grill. It's all in a day's work as part of Recipe for Success' Chef Advisory Board.  Read more.

EatingWell to VegOut! & Eat More Vegetables

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We're teaming up with EatingWell to help you Eat More VegetablesThere's one simple change anyone can make to eat better and be healthier: Eat more vegetables! And the folks at EatingWell Magazine are challenging themselves and us to eat 30 vegetables in 30 days! The Eat More Vegetables Challenge kicks off today and you can find healthy recipes to try a different vegetable every day as well as helpful tips for buying, storing and prepping your veggies all HERE

And to help you at home- EatingWell Vegetables is the ultimate book to help anyone make that change--deliciously. Written by the editors of EatingWell magazine, this book offers step-by-step basic cooking instructions with full-color photos for 101 vegetables, plus 200 easy vegetable-packed (though not necessarily vegetarian) recipes. Get it in stores in June!

EWVB Cover_final

Join the EatingWell Magazine group on VegOut! Race with EatingWell staffers and readers to reach the top of the leaderboard: Who can up their veggie game the most? And join EatingWell online--on Facebook, Instagram and eatingwell.com--where we'll be featuring recipes for 30 different vegetables in 30 days this June. We'll also be giving away a copy of EatingWell Vegetables each day on our Facebook page.


The Ultimate Dinner Party

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10 Chefs + 10 Courses + 75 Guests + The Dunlavy = Houston's Best Ever Dinner Party! 

Guests are still raving about the 10th Anniversary dinner party that Gracie and Bob Cavnar threw to benefit Recipe for Success Foundation, Thursday night May 19 at The Dunlavy

"The chicest most elegant dinner we've been to in years," gushed global philanthropist Becca Thrash. "The entire evening was a feast for every sense--truly a beautiful, engaging, and delicious few hours in the most perfect Houston setting," insisted Houston supporter Jane Wagner. 

A culinary reunion with the air of a parallel party had the kitchen humming all afternoon as ten iconic food artists--all founding members of the Recipe For Success Chef's Advisory Board--prepared their courses. Bryan Caswell, Charles Clark, Robert Del Grande, Randy Evans, Lance Fegen, Peter Garcia, Elouise Jones, Monica Pope, Randy Rucker, and John Sheely pulled out all the stops to created their over-the-top dishes with the help of ingredients donated by Sysco Foods, D'Artagnan, DR Delicacy, Marble Ranch and Indian Creek Mushrooms.

The Banquet Chefs

Afternoon thunderstorms cleared and a breeze kicked up just in time for seventy guests to arrive at The Dunlavy where the parade of food started during cocktails on the screen porch, which is cantilevered over Buffalo Bayou. Lance Fegen's Pupukea-style tuna poke with ginger, macadamia, mango and chilies on a wasabi-sesame spoon; Monica Pope's signature Date with a Pig and John Sheely's snapper ceviche were passed as guests posed for photos with Neal Hamil Agency models who were draped only in artful dinner napkins.  The models displayed examples of Dinner at Eight, sets of ten napkins featuring original works created for the occasion by artists Andrea Bianconi, Elaine Bradford, Joey Fauerso, Michael Golden, David McGee, Neva Mikulicz, Kermit Oliver, Susan Plum, Beth Secor and Randy Twaddle.  Guests snapped up the packaged sets on sale for $250. 

Dinner at 8 with GRacie

A signature cocktail of Belvedere Peach Vodka with fresh Texas peaches from Jolie Vue Ranch made the rounds along with Chandon Sparkling Wine, Anna de Codorniu Cava Brut, En Route Chardonnay, Long Meadow Ranch Sauvignon Blanc, Septima Malbec, DeLoach Pinot Noir--all curated by Glazers Distributing, plus Stella Artois and 8th Wonder beer--gifts from Silver Eagle.

The Banquet Table

With her grandmother's sterling silver dinner bell, Gracie Cavnar signaled a move to the dining room where two long tables dressed in natural linen shimmered with silver and gold flatware, golden rimmed plates, and accented with white votives, pillar candles, peonies, tulips and hydrangeas were set under a sparkling collection of 40 antique chandeliers. Bent dinner forks displayed place cards, which matched the two-sided menus printed on natural craft paper. Once the cozy party was seated Cavnar recognized chefs Fegen, Pope and Sheely who shared their stories from the classroom and their enthusiasm for the Foundation's programming along with the description of their hors d'oeuvres.  All three--along with the rest of the chefs being featured during the evening, had helped Cavnar create the Foundation's signature program now known nationally as Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™.  "It helped me be a better parent myself," insisted Fegen, while Pope shared a favorite story of 4th graders finding purple cauliflower in their garden, then insisting on adding it to the whole wheat pizza they were making and Sheely described the joy of seeing the light go on when a child understands the magic of food. 

The Banquet Intro from Gracie

"Get ready for the meal of your life," warned Cavnar before the next course went down--Charles Clark's skate wing in Meyer lemon brodetto with Taylor Bay scallops, was followed by Pedro Garcia's lentil soup with shaved black truffle and truffle oil.  Then out came Bryan Caswell's duck leg with Jordan almonds, brik and brown butter and Randy Rucker's lightly smoked short rib of beef with mushroom and chickweed.  Each dish bought a gush of oohs and lots of cell phone photos, while each chef shared his story of working with Recipe for Success Foundation.  Pedro Garcia, who like Pope, Sheely and Evans has spent time in the Foundation's classrooms every single month for a decade, had just hosted this year's class of 30 fourth graders to his restaurant, El Meson earlier in the day.  "I gave them the nickel tour and got to teach them a little something new today--the meaning of abstract, which is the opposite of what we are doing with Recipe for Success, because we are delivering real change in the way these kids think about, understand and eat their food. It's going to stick with them forever and even impact their families."  One after the other, each chef shared how their volunteer work with Recipe for Success had not only impacted the 35,000 kids the program has worked with to date, but changed their own lives. 

"Never lose your childlike sense of wonder," advised Robert Del Grande as he presented his desert of pistachio cake, beet crème and lime glass that he coined the Mad Hatter.  The colorful pink and green confection provided a delicious backdrop to a live auction of two pieces of original art.  Shawn and Genevieve Patterson won a lively bidding war that drove the final price to $1,000 for Couture Cognac, a triptych of 6"x6" pieces done in graphite, paint and thread on linen by René Garza, of Houston and New York.  There's No Such Thing as Leftovers!, a three dimensional piece of a found object, needle and thread on hemmed cotton napkin, created by Joseph H. Havel, who Catherine Anspon declared "a pillar of the Texas art scene," was snapped up for $2,000 by Becca and John Thrash.

After the auction, Cavnar brought forth Randy Evans who has recently moved to San Antonio and made the trip back especially for the party.  "Not only did Randy help me create this program, and spent a decade in our classrooms, we have gone on the road together to New York and the White House to promote it.  We miss you Randy!"   Evans hugged Cavnar as he shared how teaching with the Foundation had inspired him to build his own garden at his now shuttered Haven and keep bee hives, and introduce his kids to cooking.   "After teaching with Recipe, I was comfortable starting my own girls early at the stove.  They have been cooking with me since they were three."

To give party guests the chance to stretch their legs, Evans' dessert course of vanilla bean pound cake with bourbon macerated strawberries and lemon curd was served on the screen porch along with Elousie Jones' iconic Chocolat Pots de Crème.  But before the diners disbursed, they insisted that all ten chefs reappear and rose to give them a standing ovation.  The dinner raised $150,000 for Recipe for Success Foundations programming in Houston.

See our coverage in The Houston Chronicle, The Buzz, CultureMap and PaperCity!




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