Recently in Seed-To-Plate Category

Sharing with Southern States

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We are so proud to have Rachel England, our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Program Coordinator, represent Recipe for Success at the 9th annual Southern Obesity Summit taking place November 15-17 in Jackson, Mississippi. This marks Recipe for Success Foundation's first participation in the conference, with Rachel leading a breakout session on our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™.

Michelle Smith, Texas Coordinator for Alliance for Healthy Kids, first encouraged Rachel to apply for a breakout session earlier this year. "I saw it as an opportunity for Recipe for Success to be a part of the greater conversation about preventative solutions. It's important for people in a position to do something to see that children don't have time to wait for schools to catch up with the research data," says Rachel. "During my session, attendees will not only learn about our innovative and engaging Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™, but also be invited to take advantage of our free VegOut! curriculum and the farmers marKIDS curriculum," says Rachel. "I'm excited about the possibility of those programs spreading throughout the south, where obesity rates are some of the highest in the country."

 The Southern Obesity Summit (SOS) is the largest regional obesity prevention event in the United States, drawing hundreds of participants from the 16 Southern States: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and West Virginia. This year's conference expects around 400 people to attend.

Harvesting Carrots.jpgRachel's session will demonstrate how Recipe for Success Foundation programs have achieved remarkable results by actively addressing and combating the childhood obesity epidemic through hands-on learning that introduces children to their food from seed-to-plate. "I will explain how our academically aligned curriculum helps children learn the entire cycle of food, gain a new appreciation for food, and have fun while doing it," says Rachel. 

"I look forward to showing educators and administrators the importance of weaving nutrition education into the culture of their campus," says Rachel. "I will share best practices of the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Program, easy tools to implement, and an overview of how our many lessons are aligned with the Common Core."

According to the conference, attendees at SOS are likely to be policymakers, leaders from community-based organizations, federal and state government officials, health care providers, youth and members from national and state associations.

"Beyond my breakout session, I'm also looking forward to the opportunity to network with educators on university level and the potential to get more people onboard on a national level, as well as spread the word to advocates who can help get more schools involved," says Rachel. 

Teachers of the Year

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When the bell rings on Friday afternoons, Cedar Brook Elementary teachers Hortencia Flores and Esmeralda Warshaw, Golden Whisk Teachers of the Year, are not packing up and heading home for the weekend. Instead, they are preparing to teach in the garden and kitchen with an eager group of students. Ms. Flores, who is a first grade bilingual teacher, and Ms. Warshaw, a kindergarten bilingual teacher, were instrumental in bringing Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ to Cedar Brook. 

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Two years ago, when Principal Jeffrey Post asked his administration "about levels of interest in the Recipe for Success program, both Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores jumped at the opportunity to partner with and lead something as wonderful for kids as Recipe for Success."  Especially rewarding for both teachers is that many 3rd and 4th grade participants were their former students, resulting in a unique bond between the teachers and the students as they explore a new and exciting curriculum. Parent volunteer Rachel Stinson says that Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores are "the heart and soul of this program," and in a challenging environment of budget cuts, dwindling after-school programs, and time constraints, they have made it their mission to have a Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ program at Cedar Brook.  

Ms. Warshaw was originally drawn to the program after hearing about its benefits, and after her first year teaching the curriculum, she was inspired by the "wonderful opportunity for all students to explore, discover and apply academic and social skills in real life experiences, making the learning relevant and meaningful to them."  She has seen firsthand how the students are applying their knowledge and skills in the garden and kitchen, and she is committed to encouraging them along the way.  Most rewarding for Ms. Flores is seeing her students "respond to the challenge of trying new vegetables and foods and their level of involvement in the whole process of the Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ program.  From the learning of new concepts to the hands-on experiences in the kitchen and garden, they zoom and boom like busy bees. They really look like little busy chefs!"

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With the help of Rachel Stinson and another parent volunteer, Jacinda Woloson, Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores are embarking on their second year of the program and are excited to see how it further impacts the students and the school.  With the teachers' encouragement, the students have decorated the lunchroom with banners and pictures showcasing their activities. The signs have not only generated interest in the program, but also the students have become well known to their peers, and they are frequently asked questions about the curriculum and the exciting skills they are developing.  

Ms. Woloson added that the teachers have integrated their heritage and an understanding of cultural differences into the class and curriculum, and they have instilled trust in and boosted the confidence of the students.  And it is not just the students who have excelled and grown from the program; Ms. Warshaw and Ms. Flores have both developed new skills in their teaching repertoire and have gained new food and nutrition perspective. 

With the fun and informative environment these two teachers have created for the Seed to Plate Nutrition Education™ students, there is a lot more growing at Cedar Brook than just the vegetables in the garden! 

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KHOU at Briscoe Elementary

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KHOU Channel 11's staff will trade in their sleek news desks and microphones for shovels and soil at Briscoe Elementary on Saturday, October 24. Their day of volunteering marks the annual Make A Difference Day, which falls on the fourth Saturday in October each year, and is the largest nationally recognized day of community service. Especially serendipitous this year is that Make A Difference Day also happens to fall on Food Day, which occurs each year on October 24 and is a celebration of wholesome food and a call to action to affect changes in food policy. It's great that KHOU's desire to help in Briscoe's garden amplifies Food Day messaging, and the convergence of both events certainly gives the volunteers and students a lot to celebrate!

The KHOU team will be tending to the Briscoe Elementary garden, helping students cultivate their produce. The Briscoe students will be participating in Recipe for Success's farmers marKIDS program this year, not only growing and harvesting produce, but also learning how to sell it, developing financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills along the way. For their inaugural market, the students will help build a wooden stand that they can reuse at all their markets throughout the year.

In addition to the market stand, the children will be replenishing their garden. With the help of the KHOU volunteers, four new raised beds will be created and 10 new trees will be planted to establish a mini orchard. By expanding the garden, the students will be able to have a much more robust selection of produce, and they'll be able to keep their farmers marKIDS stand open throughout the year, selling to parents, teachers, and other community members and having the opportunity to put all the proceeds back into their garden and market stand.

Helping to beautify the garden and commemorate the day in colorful fashion, volunteers will be assisting Houston muralist Suzi Sellers paint a mural in the garden. In 2010, Sellers donated her time and talents to MacGregor and N.Q. Henderson Elementary, and she will use the brick panels in the Briscoe garden as her canvas, painting oversized fruits, vegetables, and garden critters.  We cannot wait to see how she transforms the garden into a work of art!

A big thanks to KHOU for volunteering to provide people, supplies, and their time, and also for bringing their TV cameras so the excitement of the day's activities can all be shared with our community!

S2P now at West U Elementary!

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We are thilled to be launching our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ at West U Elementary -- the largest elementary school in Houston ISD.

West University parent Kristen Berger first got to know Recipe for Success Foundation after Arvia Few invited her to attend the past few year's Blue Plate Special Luncheons. She later visited a Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ classroom at MacGregor Elementary. This year, Berger is chairing the November 18 Blue Plate Special Luncheon with Arvia Few. 

"When I visited the classroom at MacGregor Elementary, I was so impressed by the many benefits beyond teaching the kids about where the food comes from and eating healthy," says Berger. "I saw how it inspired kids for their future. One boy said he wanted grow up to be like his chef instructor Monica Pope. My favorite part was hearing a girl say 'I take the recipes home and make them with my Dad.' It's wonderful how it permeates through the family unit." 

Berger also talked to the fourth grade teacher whose class she observed. I asked the teacher if the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program takes away anything from her required teaching for the STAAR test compliance. The teacher said, "no it helps me teach essential lessons on deeper level."

After her visit to the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ classroom at MacGregor Elementary, Houston mom Kristen Berger immediately started working on getting the engaging and empowering nutrition program into West University Elementary, which is currently the largest elementary school in Houston ISD with students in K-5th grade. With the growth of the area and the student population the school has had to focus its resources and programming strictly on core curriculum. Berger started with the PTO and got the ball rolling for the school to adopt the program.

"The school had an after-school garden club program that was not living up to its potential, so I talked to administration, who liked the idea of the program, but had trouble finding room during the school day to fit it in," says Berger. She explains that after multiple teachers spoke up for the program and the enrichment value it would bring to the students, a solution was reached to convert the existing after-school garden club, which met twice a week, into an after-school Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program.

Starting this fall, West U. Elementary plans to rotate all grades through the program over the course of the school year. "This is a big reason that Recipe for Success' Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program shines - it is adaptable to any situation, any circumstances," says Berger. The entire school will be encouraged to participate in Recipe for Success Foundation's additional, free, auxiliary programs, such as Farmers MarKIDS in the fall, essay and poetry writing contests, a health fair, and the annual VegOut! during March.

"The after-school program at West U will be a small, but steady start, just planting the seed of enrichment for the school. It's about much more than gardening and cooking, which are so important, but the program teaches kids about culture, working well with others, teamwork, and more. And another beautiful thing: the school garden is located in a central focal point of the school, so reviving the garden will be an inspiration to the entire campus," says Berger.



1485% Growth over 10 years

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Schools from California to South Texas and an ever-increasing number in Houston are adopting Recipe for Success Foundation's award-winning Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ to achieve measurable change in children's eating habits with the organization's unique chef-designed curriculum that makes healthy food fun and tasty. "Why reinvent the wheel?" says Juan Gonzalez, Principal at Patterson Elementary in Houston. "When Recipe for Success has spent millions designing and testing a flexible nutrition curriculum that complements our regular school day and supports critical learning objectives to boot."

Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education™ prepares children with knowledge and skills they need to make healthy eating decisions for a lifetime. Evaluations show that kids participating in the Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education™ classes eat as much as 30% more veggies after just one year and take their new skills and knowledge home to cook healthy meals with their families.

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The Foundation welcomes a number of new schools as Affiliate Partners in Houston and nationwide for Fall 2015. In Petaluma, California, Meadow School fifth grade teachers have selected the program's Marco Polo themed unit of twenty gardening and culinary classes for their students, which was inspired by the explorer's travels through Europe and Asia. The curriculum's extra worksheets in history, geography and social studies along with math and science will thoroughly engage their students and help inspire a culture of health on this Sonoma County campus in the heart of the wine country.

In the Foundation's home base of Houston, Texas, 31 schools across the city now offer the signature curriculum that integrates hands-on gardening and culinary classes with complementary worksheets in math science, language arts and other core learning objectives. The program is gaining popularity among charter schools. Four schools featuring the program this fall: KIPP Shine, KIPP Zenith Academy and KIPP Legacy and Yes Prep West Preparatory School. West University Elementary, the largest elementary school in HISD with more than 1,200 students, begins offering Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education™ for PreK-fifth graders in an after-school format this fall. "This is a big reason that Recipe for Success' Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program shines - it is adaptable to any situation, any circumstances," says West U Elementary parent Kristen Berger.

In South Texas, Santa Gertrudis Elementary School, in Kingsville is building gardens with the help of The King Ranch and will launch the Seed- to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program this fall forthe school's 2nd and 3rd grade classes. "It is so important to change the thinking of our children when they are young and then they can help teach their families -- this is the best way to change for our future. It is my hope that other schools learn about our program and want to pursue it with their campuses," says Mary Springs, Superintendent, Santa Gertrudis ISD.

Become a Recipe for Success Foundation Affiliate Partner
With fall classes around the corner, schools and community groups who are concerned about student health are signing up to become Recipe for Success Foundation Affiliate Partners to gain access to the group's proven-effective curriculum. Affiliate Partners send their own employees--typically teachers--through the Foundation's online S2P Instructor training program to become certified. All certified S2P Instructors of licensed Affiliate Partners enjoy direct support from the Recipe for Success Foundation Home Team with an extensive online library of 400 Common Core aligned lesson plans for pre-K through fifth grade, support materials, training videos, access to garden and culinary experts, professional development and a forum to share best practices with fellow S2P Instructors across the country.

"We're pleased to provide an inexpensive way to replicate our success in changing children's eating behaviors," says Gracie Cavnar, founder and CEO of Recipe for Success Foundation. "We accept applications from any interested school or community center willing to implement our program with integrity."

Introductory participation rates are very appealing: The $500 annual Affiliate Partner fee and $250 per person for two teachers to train and certify as S2P Instructors, brings the first year investment to just $1,000 per campus. Click here for more Information and application forms or by call us at 713-520-0443. 

Movin' into South Texas

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Big News! We're talkin' King Ranch big! Recipe for Success Foundation has partnered with the Santa Gertrudis School in Kingsville, Texas to offer its comprehensive Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education Program to the school's 2nd and 3rd grade classes. The students will learn to plant and cultivate fruits and vegetables, learn about nutrition and learn to how to cook with the produce they harvest from their own garden. The school saw the Recipe for Success Seed to Plate Nutrition Education Program as a key opportunity to increase student awareness about healthy eating, the food cycle, provide greater understanding of the farming culture, which has a rich heritage in their local community since the early days of the King Ranch during the mid-1800s.


"I am looking forward to watching the students learn about growing plants and how they contribute to a healthy lifestyle. Young children have such enthusiasm for learning and when new things are introduced it is motivating to everyone. It is so important to change the thinking of our children when they are young and then they can help teach their families. This is the best way to change for our future. It is my hope that other schools learn about our program and want to pursue it with their campuses. There is such a need in South Texas to help everyone learn about becoming healthier," said Mary Springs, Superintendent, Santa Gertrudis ISD.


Located on the grounds of the King Ranch in Kingsville, Santa Gertrudis School, originally was established for the families who work on the King Ranch, and the current school facility, which opened in 2010 and features historical displays honoring the heritage of the King Ranch. "In 2012, Gracie Cavnar introduced me to Recipe for Success and I wanted to incorporate this learning experience at Santa Gertrudis Elementary, said Robert J. Underbrink, President and CEO of King Ranch, Inc. "King Ranch has always had a belief that we need to take care of one another and teaching our children how to create healthy habits is the foundation for our future. Over the past several years, we have continued to educate and encourage our employees through our own wellness program. This is a great opportunity to now include the whole family. I look forward to hearing about the children helping their parents in the kitchen and making long lasting family memories."


S2P Iron Chef Competition

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Annually in May our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ cooking classes participate in Iron Chef Competitions. The competition is a summation of the Seed-to-Plate classes for the school year as students' cooking skills are put to the test to make a dish without a recipe. Classes are split into teams to compete for five distinguished categories: Best Knife Skills, Best Plate Presentation, Cleanest Workers, Best Teamwork, and the most coveted, Best Dish Overall. 

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Iron Chef Competition at Rodriguez Elementary School with special judges H-E-B Area Community Coordinator Meagan Galbraith, Recipe for Success Chef Susie Mullen, and Recipe for Success Culinary Education Coordinator, Justin Kouri. 

In Jeopardy fashion, teams answer questions from the year's curriculum to pick their ingredient baskets. No two baskets are the same, stirring the competitive spirit even more. 

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Sneaking some help from Chef Jon Buchanan of Trevisio.

This year, students at Rodriguez Elementary school were judged on their salad making abilities, while at MacGregor Elementary School students were judged on garden fresh spring rolls. 

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Students presenting spring rolls to Chef Monica Pope of Sparrow and fellow judges. 

When it comes to the judging, the tasting part is easy! Deciding category winners, however, is no easy feat. The amount of effort, sincerity, imagination, and skill the students pour into their final class is enough to deem everyone a winner. 

The Outdoor Classroom

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 This past week, third-grade students at Westwood Elementary were able to connect the textbook with the real world as they learned about the plant life cycle in the context of their own school garden. Led by Olga Miles, students practiced the words maturation and germination as they toured the garden in search for plants in those stages. At the end of the tour, they got their hands dirty harvesting carrots and radishes and planting potatoes and flowers. 

Westwood ES.jpgLead instructor Olga Miles harvests a mature carrot with students. 

Westwood Elementary School is a member of our Affliate Partnership Program. Want to bring the Seed-2-Plate Nutrition Program to your school and become a Recipe for Success Affliate Partner? Click here for more details. 

The Nutrition Revolution Sprouting Up in Schools Nationwide

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The Houston-based Recipe for Success Foundation was founded in 2005 on the principle that kids who learn to garden and cook make better food choices in life. Founder Gracie Cavnar and her organization developed gardens and cooking programs at a select number of showcase schools in at-risk schools across Houston and began expanding from there. To date, Recipe for Success programs have impacted lives of more than 30,000 kids in Houston alone.

"As a mom, I knew that no one responds to lectures or nagging," says Cavar. "Eating healthy food had to be cool and fun, so that's what we set out to create, tapping top chefs in our community as guest instructors." The idea is to fight junk food marketing with this thoughtful type of healthy food marketing that engages kids at a young age and steers their food choices for the rest of their lives.

 "Recipe for Success Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ programs have empowered children with the knowledge and skills to make a lifetime of healthy eating decisions," says Cavnar. "This is documented by SPAN surveys implemented at the beginning and end of each academic year, revealing that vegetable consumption in participating children increases an average of 30 percent by the end of the school year."

Recipe for Success' comprehensive Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Program features a curriculum library of 400+ lesson plans to teach kids of all ages in a variety of settings and time constraints. The program is now showing school kids all over the Houston area - and in 9 additional cities across the nation - that eating healthy food is both cool and fun with its Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ at Affiliate Partner schools. Any school anywhere can sign up as an Affiliate Partner. Schools then send two or more of their own staff through the S2P web-based training and certification program.

 Costs include an annual affiliate partner fee of $500, plus a $250 fee for each staff member's training and certification. After registration and training are complete, the schools certified S2P instructors have online access to the full curriculum library of 400+ lesson plans, expert support, webinars, forums, and more to enable them to deliver this fun and effective nutritional programming. Each school must also cover their own consumables, culinary supplies and garden start-up materials.

 Hortencia Flores, a first grade teacher at Cedar Brook Elementary in Houston, Texas, began teaching the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program during weekly after-school sessions in early October 2014. "Classes are going really well," says Flores, who started with gardening and culinary classes held every Friday, after school.

"Students are highly engaged and motivated to try new vegetables and fruits, especially those coming from our garden," says Flores. "We had our first harvest a couple of weeks ago and celebrated with a delicious stir-fry recipe that students enjoyed so much. Last Friday, we used part of our harvest to prepare an amazing rainbow salad (1-2-3 salad recipe from the Recipe for Success website)." 


 Flores reports that she enjoys teaching the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ curriculum, and grows more comfortable and confident with the program with each passing week. She also says she is grateful for the support of a loyal crew of five volunteers, who have assisted with the S2P program at Cedar Brook Elementary since it began.

 "With the help of 25 of Houston's finest chefs we created our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ to turn kids on to the magic of food and empower them to make healthy decisions and their own scrumptious meals," says Cavnar. "Our program inspired the First Lady's "Chefs Move To Schools" outreach, which we helped her launch, and now we have over 100 professional chefs volunteering with Recipe for Success as we grow from coast to coast."

 For information getting started with the Recipe for Success Affiliate Partner program, refer to the Recipe for Success affiliate partnership page.

The World's Greatest Pet

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When you think of typical classroom pets, lizards, various small rodents, and fish are usually the first to come to mind. All of those are great, but at Recipe for Success we are a little different; we keep worms. Students learn that worms, specifically red wigglers, are fantastic decomposers, devouring our culinary classroom scraps and producing nutrient rich humus for our garden. 

Worms.jpg This past week, a few of our programs received roughly two thousand worms and boy, were our kids excited. Never seen two thousand worms at once? It's quite the tangled mess. Before they arrived, students spruced up the worms new home, known as "The Worm Hotel," with wet newspaper strips and banana peels. One kindergartner exclaimed during this nesting activity that, "a worm is the greatest pet in the world." I couldn't agree more - low maintenance, inexpensive, silent, and their excretion helps us grow healthy food. Now that's a loveable pet.

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Students learn about the worms new habitat, The Worm Hotel. 

 Want to start vermicomposting at your house?  Check out Uncle Jim's Worm Farm to purchase your own pet red wigglers. 

Chef for a Day 2015

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My Favorite Holiday Food Writing Contest winner David Gallegos was awarded his grand prize last week: becoming Chef for a Day at The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa. Little Chef David was greeted with his very own embroidered Houstonian chef's jacket and hat. Executive Chef Neal Cox wasted no time introducing Chef David to the Houstonian's large kitchens and staff. On the menu for the day was Carrot and Apple Soup, Pork Tenderloin with Soba Noodles, and Wild Blueberry Pie with Lemon Ice Cream - quite a large feast for this little chef to prepare!


No chef can work on an empty stomach. Chef David before devouring a waffle made in The Houstonian's Olivette's kitchen.

For two hours, Chef Neal patiently walked Chef David through each step of the meal - from dicing the carrots for the soup to searing the pork tenderloin, to rolling pie dough. After all that work, Chef David had certainly worked up quite an appetite. At the lunch table he was joined by family, teachers, and Chef Neal to enjoy the fruits of his labor.


I ran into David this week and he pulled me aside to tell me that since becoming Chef for a Day his mother now lets him cook side by side with her, even teaching her a few things he picked up from Chef Neal. Quite the memorable experience for this young chef!


 Click here to read my interview with David! 

Kids in the Kitchen

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One delicious perk of having prominent Houston chefs volunteer their time in our Seed-to-Plate ™ culinary classes is the opportunity they provide for students to visit their restaurants and get an insider's tour of some of Houston's favorite, professional kitchens. 

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Last month students from Rodriguez Elementary School got a taste of La Vista, Chef Greg Gordon's chic Galleria bistro serving delicious New American cuisine. Students first got a tour of the kitchen before rolling up their sleeves to make brick oven baked pizzas. The special treatment continued as they dined in La Vista's private dinning room known as the "The Cool People Room." 

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Afterwards, the kids worked the off the pizza with a fun game of kickball at the nearby Tanglewood Park. 

Surely positive kitchen experiences like this one will influence a few future culinary careers!

Frost Fighters

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Well the Old Farmer's Almanac predicted it; this winter was set to be a dousy. "Colder is just almost too familiar a term," Old Farmer's Almanac Editor Janice Stillman said. "Think of it as a refriger-nation." Temperature highs in the 40s may seem to our Northern neighbors like Houston is in the protected crisper section of the fridge; but nonetheless, we are certainly shaking in our boots.

These temperatures can be particularly unfriendly to our Recipe Gardens, as I am sure all you home gardeners can attest. Our students in our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Program are learning the precautionary measures to take to protect those precious veggie plants they have worked so hard to cultivate. Here are three easy steps they are taking that you can try at home in your own gardens: 

  1. Water well. As the weather gets colder, the air gets drier which leads to soil moisture loss (This goes for us humans too! Stay hydrated, folks). Contrary to what you might expect, wet soil holds heat better than dry soil.
  2. Mulch. Adding dried leaves, hay, or even newspapers around plants conserves water and keeps the soil warm.
  3.  Cover.  The kids call this "blanketing." If frost is in the forecast, you can use frost cloths, newspapers, bed sheets, or old pots to cover plants. Never cover plants with plastic bags. Make sure to remove the next day to prevent scorching from the afternoon sun. 

Winter Watering.jpgGood luck and stay warm! 

Green Garden Gifts

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Hooray, the holiday season is here! Families are gathering, joyful music is playing, kitchens are warm with baking, and of course, people are frantically shopping. Last minute shoppers, don't stress about finding (not to mention affording) the perfect presents for loved ones and take a page from our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ garden classes.


At MacGregor Elementary, our students collected rosemary, oregano, sage, and bay laurel stems to create aromatic, herb bouquet gifts. Unlike a Christmas tree, this gift is still useful even if it dries out! Whether the recipient likes to cook or not, the bouquet can be used as rustic décor, freshening any room with it's warm woody fragrance.


If you can only get your hands on rosemary, an herb that is particularly prolific in Texas I've quickly learned, try making rosemary wreaths or ornaments tied together with twine or ribbon. These handmade gifts are fun for kids (and adults!) to make, not to mention affordable and environmentally friendly.

Look outside and let your imagination do the gifting!   

Recipe for Success Foundation also has gifts that give - place your order by noon on December 22  for delivery by Christmas Eve!


Let It Go: Monarch Edition

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Recipe for Success takes full advantage of our Recipe Gardens, utilizing their bounty in our culinary classes. However, it's not just students and school staff who love our homegrown harvest. The week before Thanksgiving, students caught countless monarch caterpillars munching away on the Mexican milkweed in our Recipe Garden at MacGregor Elementary. 


A hard freeze in Houston was in the forecast, and the kids were worried about the future of all these soon-to-be butterflies. Sympathizing with their anguish, I was talked into becoming a foster parent of four caterpillars, which I was informed, was not nearly enough. Evidently, our garden caterpillars faired just fine. When we returned in December, the once very lush milkweeds had not a leaf in sight!


Over the following weeks, my classes observed these caterpillars turn into chrysalises, from dewy green to black and orange. One reflective Pre-K student commented that the chrysalis was like the butterfly's sleeping bag, a perfectly apt (and adorable!) association for their curious minds to grasp.


Kindergartener watches a butterfly emerge in its makeshift habitat.

Never before had I held captive chrysalises and I found myself being just as rapt with their life cycle as the kids, particularly when the butterflies emerged! One particular kindergarten class squealed with delight as the emerging drama unfolded before them. A couple hours later, the fifth graders released the butterflies from their netted cage. Shy to start flying at first, they were serenaded by the class singing "Let It Go" and "I Believe I Can Fly" in complete earnest and support of these tiny creatures.

When finally the radiant orange wings took off into the wind, the class erupted in cheers. One student asked, "Can we plant more milkweed?" Absolutely. 


TV Magic with Chef Randy Evans!

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ChefRandyChopsticks.jpgChef Randy demonstrates how to use chopsticks. 

Chefs in Schools™, which matches celebrity chefs as guest instructors for fourth-grade classes, is one of the most exciting aspects of our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program.   Our volunteer chefs are getting a kick out of putting their own unique stamp on this year's curricular theme: Eat It! Food Adventures with Marco Polo.  Just yesterdayChef Randy Evans took fourth-graders from MacGregor Elementary on a culinary adventure to China. On the menu for the day were Far East Cauliflower Bowls, a revamped version of the ultimate take-out comfort food champion, Chinese fried rice.

Chef Randy showed students how to make "rice" with cauliflower, upping nutrient levels and lowering calories, all while sending the tastiness factor off the charts.  Kids were impressed that with only a few pulses of the food processor this wonder veggie could be transformed into a better version of the grain. 

Since 2006, Chef Randy has volunteered in our classrooms, charming and educating students with restaurant secrets and the finest culinary skills. Thursday was no different, except for one detail: the kids' beloved chef is now a TV star! As Chef Randy led students on the epicurean exploration, he regaled them with stories of his Kitchen Inferno episode "Milk and Cookies: Get Ready to Crumble", which debuted this past week on the Food Network. He even divulged a TV magic secret - it took 8 days to film the one hour episode.  The kids were delighted to get the inside scoop!

'Tater Takeover!

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Move over Pumpkin Spiced everything, it's sweet potato season! Since school has started, the kiddos in our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ programs have been ripping up verdant vines and submerging their small hands in soil. It's the ultimate treasure hunt, sifting and clawing through the deep unknown of our garden beds, sometimes unearthing a host of interesting living things from "alien" looking moth pupas to red onions from seasons past.  When sweet potatoes are found they are notoriously plump, disfigured giants, delighting the young discoverers. It's no easy feat hoisting batatas like these from such deep depths.

GiantSweetPotato.jpgStudents hold up a monstrous sweet potato harvested from their Recipe Garden at Rodriguez Elementary School. 

After all this hard work, the bellies began to growl. Thanksgiving is right around the corner and so many kids have marshmallows and mashed sweet potatoes on the brain. But here at Recipe for Success, we are digging deeper with our recipes.

In our showcase culinary classrooms we motivate kids to step away from the candied nuts and sticky melted 'mallows by instead making a flavorful Turkish dish called Sebze Müscveri, or Baked Veggie Fritters, as part of our Marco Polo curriculum, adapted from the Eat It! Food Adventures with Marco Polo cookbook by RFS Founder, Gracie Cavnar. Traditionally made with russet potatoes, we utlized our harvest bounty to boost the vitamin punch. To balance its sweetness, the kids made a yogurt-garlic sauce to drizzle on top and then added a garnish of garden fresh radish slices for extra crunch. YUM!

Let us know how you are healthily enjoying the sweet side of this season's best ingredient!

Q&A with My Favorite Holiday Food Writing Contest Winner

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I recently sat down with My Favorite Holiday Food Writing Contest winner David Gallegos, a fourth-grader from MacGregor Elementary School. His essay about his grandmother's fried cauliflower, a New Year's Eve tradition in his family, captured the heart of the storywriting contest's official judge, Houston's own Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Zepeda. She said that out of all the essays, David's had the best "flow and tone."  Each year the winner gets to play chef for the day at The Houstonian with Chef Neal Cox. Read David's thoughts on winning this prestigious prize and prepare to be charmed by this little chef! 

When did you start taking RFS classes?

First grade.

When you are out in the garden, what do you like to do?

Water the plants.

What is your favorite plant to grow in the garden?


Yum! Do you like to make any special recipes with watermelon?

I like the taste of it plain, but sometimes I like to it eat it with this hot powder. Me and my grandmother call it, "pica."

You've been cooking for a while now, what is your favorite recipe to make in this class?

Beet brownies!

What is your favorite food in the whole world?

(Without missing a beat) Fried cauliflower.

davidgallegosedited.jpgDavid Gallegos with Chef Neil Cox at the Blue Plate Special Awards Luncheon on November 5, 2014. 

How did it feel to receive the My Favorite Holiday Food Writing Contest award at the Blue Plate Special Luncheon?

Nervous and exciting.  I liked the lunch. The pecan-crusted chicken was good, but I would have changed the sweet potato mash to cucumbers instead.  (In the S2P culinary classes, we encourage students to say what they like about a dish and things they would change about it. Let the creativity fly!)

What do you think about spending an entire day with Chef Neal? You're going to learn and cook so many yummy things!

I am excited. Hopefully I don't get a stomachache!

Is there any particular dish you'd like to make with Chef Neal at the Houstonian?

I want to try and make my very own recipe with Chef Neal. Not sure if it it's going to be a dessert or a main meal.

Do you think you could teach Chef Neal how to make fried cauliflower?

If my mom shows me the right ingredients to use first, then sure!


What a fun day is ahead for this budding chef and writer! Stay tuned to hear what good food David cooks up with Chef Neal Cox at the Houstonian in January!

Want your kids to participate in the 2015 My Favorite Holiday Food Writing Contest next fall?  Follow us on FB and Twitter to stay up to date on contest registration announcements and other fun RFS activities.

Composting Mr. Fuzzy

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This year was the first time in eight years I decided to carve a jack-o-lantern. Goodness, was I proud of it. The days leading up to Halloween, I let the sinister eyes and bat-shaped mouth sit a glow on my stoop, lighting up my inner childlike glee.

jackolanternrevised.jpgPromptly on the morning after Halloween, there they were -- the darkening spots, the little fuzzy hairs of mold.  October was over and November wasted no time in getting rid of the past.

compost.jpgFortunately, this month in our Seed-to-Plate curriculum is the time we teach our students about composting.  I brought in my proud yet somewhat slumping, jack-o-lantern into MacGregor Elementary to show my students.

"What should I do with my pumpkin now that it's old and moldy?" I asked my first graders. One young girl raised her hand "You need to throw Mr. Fuzzy in the trash." Aha! The teachable moment, all of us teachers hope for. Off to the compost area we went. 

Students learned that Mr. Fuzzy would eventually break down into a crumbly,  "chocolate" looking mixture, rich in nutrients, for healthier, bigger veggie plants in our Recipe Garden.  Healthy soil makes healthy crops, which ultimately means healthy us!


At the end of the lesson, it was a little bittersweet for the students (and me!) to bury Mr. Fuzzy under decomposing vines. Yet, the event energized students to bring their own jack-o-lanterns from home to put in our school compost. Sad pumpkins can make some very happy plants and kiddos.

I challenge you all to do the same with your leftover pumpkins this holiday season!

For pottage and puddings 
and custards and pies,
Our pumpkins and parsnips
are common supplies.
We have pumpkins at morning
and pumpkins at noon.
If it were not for pumpkins
we should be undoon. 

Pilgrim verse (c.1633)

Food Day Plant-a-Palooza!

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People have been gathering over food for millenia. It should be no surprise then on October 24 every year thousands of events all around the country bring Americans together to celebrate Food Day, a day to enjoy and support the movement for affordable, sustainable, real food.

 Official Food Day Houston organizer Recipe for Success Foundation added an event to the list of celebrations with #HoustonDigsRealFood, a citywide plant-a-palooza. What better way to appreciate real food than by planting, growing, harvesting and preparing vegetables yourself?

 Houstonians of every age were encouraged to plant veggie seeds in patches of soil located in offices, window boxes, yards, community gardens and, of course, school gardens. Thirty-five Houston-area schools participated in the event!

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 MacGregor Elementary hosted the grand finale of the festivities. In a public ceremony with the Mayor's office and local dignitaries, Wells Fargo presented a grant of $200,000 to Recipe for Success Foundation in support of their Hope Farms™ urban agricultural project. After the ceremony, participants including councilmembers Steve Costello and David Robinson, the City's Director of Sustainability Laura Spanjian, planted beet seeds in the school gardens. I see beet brownies in our future!

 Farmers MarKIDS stand.jpg

During the event, MacGregor fifth graders prepared and served crispy sweet potato fries with homemade zesty ketchup to entice guests to shop for school-grown veggies like bok choy, mustard greens, herbs, and sweet potatoes at their farmers marKIDS™ stand. It was quite the garden party!

 Did you plant seeds for #HoustonDigsRealFood? Share what you planted in the comment section below! 

Learn more about farmers marKIDS here.


Kudos for Berry ES

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berry.jpgRecipe for Success Foundation is fortunate to partner with amazing like-minded organizations who help us make our vision to establish healthy eating as the norm become a reality. James Berry Elementary is a perfect example. Thanks to sponsorship from the Aetna Foundation and Healthy Living Matters, we were able to establish our gardens and Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ as a vital learning tool of this new LEED-certified environmental science campus.

We are honored to have played a role in helping Berry earn the 2014 Development of Distinction Award from Urban Land Institute Houston for their success in creating a dynamic, green-concsious campus in a community that has greatly benefited from the revitalization.

After a year of support by our S2P Instructors, Berry has now spread its wings to become a sustainable RFS Affiliate Partner, with classroom teachers having completed training to be certified S2P Instructors and implement our program.

Congrats to Berry and thanks to everyone who helped in our mutual success. Onward and upward!

Watch this ULI video about the campus here: 

RFS Loves Greenling!

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GreenlingSpotlight.jpgGreenling Founder and Cookie Monster Mason Arnold chats with Recipe for Success Foundation at RecipeHouse about why Greenling loves supporting our programs. Their mission to support local farmers and food producers and to help connect their customers with fresh, quality, local food makes them a terrific match with Recipe for Success. Their team provides much of the produce for our full calendar of RecipeHouse classes, camps and chef dinners, as well as for special events and community outreach activities. We are grateful to have such a fun and gung-ho partner to help us GROW our message and programming! Thank you, Greenling!

Having trouble viewing? Watch this video and more on our YouTube channel.

HISD Fruit & Veggie Fests!

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VegFest-GiggleGirls.jpgThis May, Recipe for Success Foundation teamed up with the Houston ISD Food Services Nutrition Team for the International Fruit and Vegetable Festival! Students at Berry, Briscoe and Rodriguez elementary schools traveled through the world of fruits and vegetables to learn not only the origin of each food, but how each tastes and the value of eating fresh fruits and vegetables daily.

VegFest-Blindfold.jpgStudents enjoyed trying some new and exotic produce and playing games like Veggie Bingo, Brussels Sprouts Toss and guessing what they were eating while blindfolded (blackberries tastes sweet-tart!) or touching (kiwi is so fuzzy!).

View an album showcasing more of the fun here. Read more about the festival and school nutrition in the Houston Chronicle article and on HISD eNews.

Chantal and Dragana

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I am pleased that Chantal Duvall and Dragana Harris are our volunteers for the month of May!

Chantal Duvall is originally from Belgium, but moved to Virginia in the 70's to marry the love of her life.  Chantal received her first cookbook at the age of 10 which sparked her love for food and cooking.  She taught French pastry and cooking in Kingwood for 15 years and owned her own catering company. She lived the charmed life in a small village in Provence for ten years before moving back to the States. 

Dragana Harris brings a diverse background to our organization. She is Serbian, but grew in South Africa and attended college in Toronto, Canada.  She loves to travel, photograph, and write - all about food.  Her talents are showcased in one package through her writing and food styling for My Table Magazine, and her personal food blog "Prijatno!"

The duo met as senior docents 26 years ago at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.  Together they attended culinary events around town before running into Molly, RFS' Director of Operations. When Molly told them about our mission, they immediately hopped in to volunteer at Rodriguez Elementary.  They have since helped with programs such as Chef Surprise and Dress for Dinner.   The Chef Surprise series has been a favorite of Chantal and Dragana's because it allows them to support the best chefs in Houston, and also learn a few new tricks of the trade!

While Chef Surprise is Chantal's beloved RFS series, our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ classes have had the most impact on her.  She loved it when the students at Rodriguez Elementary snacked on lettuces that they grew in the school's garden.  Chantal says, "The students are great examples for my grandchildren.  I've taught them how to eat better using some of the tips I learned in the classroom." 

Dragana loves the teamwork and excitement of our students while they prepare healthy meals sourced from their Recipe Garden.  She keeps a collection of RFS recipes, including Eat It! Food Adventures, that she refers to often.

When Chantal is not helping with one of our programs, she is typically traveling and discovering new foods and wines.  In 10 years, Chantal sees herself living in a small village in Provence enjoying the slow life, good wine, and fresh vegetables and cheeses.  Dragana, on the other hand, hopes to continue to volunteer with Recipe for Success Foundation, which she predicts will be a well-known national organization!

Chantal's and Dragana's friendship extends outside of Recipe for Success Foundation.  They are owners of a small chocolate business and love to experiment with sweets.  Check out some of their tasty treats here:


Learn more about our Chef Surprise dinners here.        

Signs of a Healthier Future

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Briscoe-Garden Signs.jpgStudents participating in our after-school program at Briscoe Elementary used their artistic abilities to decorate these signs for their Recipe Garden.  At Recipe for Success we strive to integrate all areas of education to foster a healthy lifestyle.  We work closely with schools to align our lessons to their goals for a healthier, well-educated student body.

In observance of National Poetry Month AND National Gardening Month, our Seed-to-Plate instructors are discussing poetry with students and encouraging them to participate in our Garden Haikus Earth Day Contest.  During class students explore the garden to get inspiration for acrostic and free verse poetry.  Students channel their creativity while observing the growth and life cycle of fruits and vegetables.  Some are familiar with poetry but others are being exposed to this written art form for the first time and are excited to create new masterpieces.  This poem was shared by S2P Instructor Emily Paul this month and was met by giggles all around.

Mashed Potatoes on the Ceiling
by Ken Nesbitt

Mashed potatoes on the ceiling.
Green beans on the floor. 
Stewed tomatoes in the corner.
Squash upon the door.

Pickled peppers in my pocket.
Spinach up my sleeves. 
Mushrooms in my underpants with 
leeks and lettuce leaves.

Okra, onions, artichokes, 
asparagus and beets;
buried neatly underneath the 
cushions of our seats.

All the rest I've hidden in my socks 
and down my shirt.
I'm done with all my vegetables.
I'm ready for dessert!

© 2001 Kenn Nesbitt 'The Aliens have landed at our school'

Rockets Get Dirty with Us

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This March, Houston Rockets selected Recipe for Success Foundation for the second year as a Charity of the Month, raising over $6,000 to support our efforts to create healthy lives for children. In April, they also got their hands dirty volunteering with us as one of their Green Week projects. Staff members came out to work alongside Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education students and instructors to help prepare the Recipe Gardens at Berry Elementary School for spring planting.

Take a look!

Rockets at Berry-Wheelbarrow.jpg



Rockets at Berry-Snack.jpgOh, you know, just munching on a post-gardening snack of freshly harvested salad greens.


Rockets at Berry-Group.jpgThanks for your support, Rockets!


Check out a video of the action during Houston Rockets Green Week here. Plus, more photos here.

Lemon Pasta & Turnip Soup!

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ParkPlace-LemonPasta+TurnipSoup.jpegSeed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ students at Park Place Elementary were thrilled to make lemony pasta from scratch to add to the turnip soup, which included turnips from their Recipe Garden!

Roasted Turnip Soup
Makes 8 servings

Turnips are not terribly popular, as they have a tendency to become bitter and watery if not cooked properly. The key to cooking turnips is to roast them! Like radishes, turnips become sweet and creamy when roasted, and when paired with leeks, garlic, they produce a fantastic soup.
- S2P Instructor, Chef Priti

2 pounds turnips, cut into large dice
1 tablespoon oil
2 leeks, dark green part cut off, sliced in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock


  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss turnips in oil, place on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 45 minutes.
  • In a large pot over medium-high heat, brown the butter with coriander seeds and caraway until fragrant. Add leeks, garlic and salt and cook until soft.
  • Add the turnips and stock, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to bring mixture to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Transfer the hot mixture to a blender or food processor and puree until smooth.

Tip: To add a little bit of texture to the pureed soup, you can garnish with toasted walnuts or rye bread croutons.

Volunteer of the Month, Vicki Kuzma

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vicki kuzma.jpgI am happy to announce Vicki Kuzma as our Volunteer of the Month for February!  Vicki has volunteered with the organization since Fall 2012 at KIPP SHINE.  As a mother of four children and a former home economics teacher, the opportunity to volunteer in one of our Seed-to-Plate classrooms was a natural fit. She currently helps Chef Emily with the 2nd grade culinary classes to expose young children to fresh healthy produce and gives them the opportunity to be able to prepare their own meals.  For her, it is an eye opening yet rewarding experience to see so many students who refuse to try to vegetables at the beginning of the year, but, by the end, become food adventurers and leaders of their families to improve their diets.

When asked how she envisions her life in 10 years, Vicki replied, "No different".  She has a very fortunate life where she is able to spend time with her family and volunteer with organizations that she is passionate about.  We thank Vicki for her continuous support to Recipe for Success Foundation and we hope to keep her around for many years to come! 


KIPP SHINE has been a Seed-to-Plate Nutrition EducationTM campus since 2010.  We love our relationship with the school and the healthy community they uphold.  Click here to learn more about KIPP SHINE.

H-E-B in the S2P classroom

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This month a group of our friends at H-E-B visited a Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ cooking class at Rodriguez Elementary, one of our most veteran programs.  


Led by Chef Susie, fourth-grade students prepared a 1-2-3 Salad with seasonal veggies and ingredients representing each of the five food groups.  H-E-B team members Rita, Lacey, Annie and Joe jumped right in to ask students questions and assist students as they chopped, measured, whisked and tossed. 

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What did we think of the 1-2-3 Salad?


Thumbs up all around!

Thanks for visiting our classroom, H-E-B. We look forward to vegging out with you in the New Year!

See more photos of H-E-B's classroom visit here.

My Favorite Holiday Food Stories

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Pine Shadow-fave holiday food-turkey.jpgRecipe for Success encourages students in its Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ programs to celebrate their family culinary traditions.  At every turn, we incorporate key skills, such as writing and storytelling, into our curriculum, which is why students every fall write about their favorite holiday foods to share with their classes.

Pine Shadow - fave holiday food essays.jpgFirst-grade S2P students at Pine Shadows Elementary wrote essays about their favorite holiday dishes and decorate paper frames to display their writing.

Each year, fourth graders in our programs throughout Houston submit entries for the My Favorite Holiday Food Story Writing Contest, and one talented student is selected by poet laureate TK as our winner.  This year's winner was Ivan Marquez of Matthys Elementary, who wrote about his family's Thanksgiving tradition of having a special turkey that pays homage to his family's culture - it's stuffed with tamales!  

"The smell is just irresistable! If you take only a sniff, it can put you in a food trance," says Ivan of his mom's dish. "It will make your taste buds not, but FLOOD!"  Pretty enticing review if you ask us.

Ivan, his family and two Matthys educators attended our annual awards luncheon, where he joined other honorees on stage to accept his award from Chef Neal Cox, with whom Ivan will spend some one-on-one time as Chef for a Day, preparing delicious recipes in Olivette kitchen at The Houstonian.

What are YOUR favorite holiday foods traditions?

Chef Neil Cox, Ivan Marquez, City Councilman Steve Costello.jpgChef Neal Cox, Ivan Marquez and City Councilman Steve Costello at the 2013 Blue Plate Special Cafe: A Harvest Market & Awards Luncheon.

Volunteer of the Month

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will isbell 2.jpgI am happy to announce Will Isbell as our volunteer of the month! Will Isbell has been volunteering with Recipe for Success for many years.  He has helped with numerous activities such as garden builds, student presentations, Eat This! Summer Camp sessions, and staff training.  Will currently served as our moderator for our More Than Honey screening and panel discussion in celebration of Food Day.  Will was the perfect candidate to lead our discussion due to his diverse background and experience with entomology and art.  While he has taken many entomology classes at Texas A&M University AgriLife Extension, Will owes most of his knowledge to his grandparents.  As a child, Will loved to play and explore in his grandparents' farm. His love for entomology and horticulture is shown when he volunteers with our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition EducationTM classes.  He speaks so passionately that he is able to get many young students excited about insects such as stag beetles!  When he is not in one of our classrooms, you can find Will in the studio as he is finishing up his Bachelor's of Fine Art in Studio Art.  Will will always see himself heavily engaged in two of his passions: art and volunteerism.  Though he does not like to pick sides, he says that RFS is one of his favorite organizations because he sees the impact we have on our students, parents, and communities long after our program is completed.  We thank Will for being a great volunteer to Recipe for Success and he hope to have him for a lifetime!

How do radishes taste?

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What did first-graders in Berry Elementary's Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program think after tasting the white radishes that they planted, tended and harvested this fall in their Recipe Garden?

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Learn how to bring Recipe for Success Foundation's proven nutrition education curriculum and hands-on cooking and gardening classes to your school here

Volunteer of the Month

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chef ruffy campers.jpgWe are happy to announce Chef Ruffy Sulaiman as November's volunteer of the month!  As a kid, Chef Ruffy wanted to be an engineer like his father, but while attending the University of Houston, he also worked full time as a chef.  For the last 21 years, Ruffy has been working as an executive chef spending the last ten years at the Hilton Americas-Houston.  He prides himself on being a front-runner in Southwestern cuisine and uses his French training to create the perfect fusion.  Chef Ruffy has had a few crazy and bizarre moments while working as an executive chef.  One of his busiest days, at the Hilton, in 2004, he served over 10,000 meals in a 24-hour period for a Super Bowl event.  The 'wildest' meal he has ever created was a combination plate of pan seared filet of mountain lion tenderloin and chipotle glazed rattlesnake cake for a Safari themed wine tasting event while working for the Adam's Mark Hotel! Chef Ruffy, obviously, has a love creating unique yet delectable menus for his clients.  His joy is translated into our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition EducationTM classrooms.  He loves that he is able to have an impact on so many students' lives and see them grow into young chefs.  One of his favorite moments as chef was this past summer as he volunteered with our Eat This! Summer Camp.  The campers truly enjoyed his take on corn flake crusted chicken nuggets and homemade ketchup.  We applaud Chef Ruffy's hardwork as he helps to make our programs shine.


Learn more about our Chefs in SchoolsTM program here.

Festivities for Food Day 2013

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FoodDay-Pledges.jpgFor the third year, Recipe for Success Foundation excitedly supported Food Day, a nationwide celebration of healthy, affordable, sustainable food and a grassroots movement for better food policies.

In honor of this year's focus on Food Education, this week we hosted activities to educate Houstonians of all ages about our food systems, including a screening of More Than Honey followed by a panel discussion with area bee experts about the decline in bee populations; a field trip for 350 students to view the documentary What's on Your Plate? about kids and food politics; and 70 or so of our regularly scheduled culinary and gardening classes for students in our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ programs across the city.

Throwdown-Honey-Roshni.jpgWe also partnered with Urban Harvest and the City of Houston to host the Third Annual Food Day Chef Throwdown at the City Hall Farmers Market. Four Houston chefs went head-to-head to create tasty vegetarian dishes using local produce donated by Gunderrman Acres and Atkinson Farms, plus this year's secret ingredient - HONEY (from Bee Wilde)! Food savvy judges voted on their winner - Greg Gordon of La Vista!

Throwdown-Group.jpgRead more about the challenge here and here.

FoodDay-Volunteer-Pledge.jpgDuring the Chef Throwdown, we also asked market patrons why they eat seed-to-plate. You know, why seek out real, whole food to nourish your body and appease hunger pangs? There are plenty of reasons to do so, but we wanted to know why Houston eats real.

Here are some of our favorite answers:

I eat seed-to-plate...

because it tastes better!

because it's healthy and fun!

to support local growers and farmers!

for better health.

because fresh veggies have shown me a whole new world of what food really is.

for our four-year-old daughter.

to feel great!

because it's honest food.

to support my city and its people!

for mental freshness.

because it's delicious and nutritious!

because it's important to know where your food comes from.

because it's creative and yummy!

because it's sustainable!

to save the bees!

because I love veggies!

Read more reasons Houstonians eat real and view our Food Day 2013 photo album here.

Park Place preps for fall planting

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Park Place ES-Weeding.jpgAfter a long break, Park Place Elementary's Recipe Garden beds have been taken over by weeds! But never fear! This fall, Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ students are back in action and will have it cleaned up in no time. Not only that, these hard-working kiddos will plant autumn fruits and vegetables to use for delicious recipes in their S2P culinary classes.

Recipe for Success Foundation's Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ programs provide elementary students with the knowledge skills to make healthy eating decisions for life. Learn how to bring Seed-to-Plate to your school or youth program here.

Matthys dreams of Recipe Gardens!

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To kick off the school year, fourth graders at Matthys Elementary took a tour of their Recipe Gardens with their S2P Instructor, Carrie Norton. After their visit, they planned out what they would plant in their garden this fall and then drew vibrant pictures of what their Dream Gardens would look like. Take a look!


What a happy vegetable farm!


Looks like these red pepper plants have a turtle friend.


What a brightly colored harvest you have, Kyla!

Recipe for Success Foundation's Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ programs provide elementary students with the knowledge skills to make healthy eating decisions for life. Learn how to bring Seed-to-Plate to your school or youth program here.

Eat This! Campers Sell Cookies

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KaleCookieCampers-square.jpgChocolate Kale Cookies, a brand new product created by elementary aged kids who attended session five of our Eat This! Summer Camp at RecipeHouse, were the hands-down choice by Houston's Revival Market to add to their shelves.   Veteran supporters of Recipe for Success Foundation's efforts to combat childhood obesity by changing the way kids eat, Revival Market unveiled their latest product just in time for back to school.

Eat This! Summer Camps prepare children to become savvy food consumers through hands-on learning in the kitchen and garden. During each week-long session, campers develop and market an original food product with the help of the Foundation's Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Instructors, and volunteer members of their Chefs Advisory Board, who this year included Jon Buchanan (Trevisio) and Ruffy Sulaiman (Hilton Americas-Houston), and Revival Market General Manager, Carlos Meltzer. 

"Children who understand how food is marketed to them are empowered to distinguish between facts and promotions when selecting their own food from grocery shelves," explained Gracie Cavnar.  After building their culinary chops testing recipes, this year's five groups of campers perfected their products and developed branding and packaging to present to Revival Market. "Understanding the basics of food marketing opens the door to critical thinking and gives kids a set of tools they can use in many areas of development," said Meltzer.

Finished products ranged from Salsa Gals' Italian-inspired salsa complete with the jingle, "Don't Mambo; Salsa!" to the deceptively healthy Razzalicious Brownies, chock full of fresh spinach and raspberries.  After sampling entries from the five Eat This! Summer Camp sessions, the Revival Market team selected their favorite:   "Everything was great, but we found the Chocolate Kale Cookies to be the best tasting item and loved the style of the box and the artwork the kids created," said Meltzer.

Campers, parents and RFS staff reunited at Revival Market for the official unveiling of the winning product. Attendees sampled all five products crafted by campers, viewed the various marketing campaigns, and enjoyed light bites provided by Revival Market.

"My child loved EVERYTHING about this camp--the garden, cooking,meeting an 'insect guy', marketing granola--EVERY aspect was phenomenal!" said Swati Narayan, Mom to eight-year-old Milan.

You can buy Chocolate Kale Cookies at Revival Market and a portion of the proceeds will be donated back to RFS programming.

August's Volunteer of the Month

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August 2013.pngWe are happy to announce Rachel Huisman as our volunteer of the month for August!  Rachel has been with Recipe for Success since January volunteering in our culinary classroom at MacGregor Elementary School and with community outreach events.  Rachel attended Rice University graduating with a degree in history, but hopped back into the classroom to obtain a nutrition degree eventually becoming a registered dietitian.  In her spare time, you can find Rachel cooking, traveling, sailing, or eating her favorite type of cuisine: Thai food. 

Rachel first learned about RFS a few years ago and loved the mission, but finally had extra time this year to get involved.  She thinks that Recipe for Success is important because it integrates many disciplines and it also gets children excited while raising awareness about fresh produce.  Initially, she was very surprised yet pleased at the effectiveness of our Seed-to-Plate Nutriton EducationTM program.  It is not easy to get kids excited, let alone, eat new fruits and veggies.  She gives credit to our staff because other efforts similar to ours are not as successful. 

Her most memorable moment was during the Iron Chef competition.  It was such a rewarding experience for her to see the students excited about the colorful and creative meals they have created. 

We are very thankful to have committed volunteers like Rachel and we will be glad to have her back at MacGregor in the fall!


If you would like to volunteer with any of our programs, please contact the volunteer coordinator.

July's Volunteer of the Month

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Melissa Manske.jpgWe are happy to have Chef Melissa Manske as our featured volunteer for the month of July!  Melissa is originally from Beaumont, Texas, but moved to Houston for its food scene.  Through a nutrition course at Texas Christian University, she realized that her passion did not lie in journalism, but in cooking.  From TCU, she attended the University of Houston and Culinary Institute of America to obtain hospitality and culinary arts degrees.  Melissa is currently working as a culinary teacher at the Art Institute.  She loves that she is able to stay connected to her industry through Recipe for Success.  For Melissa, Recipe for Success, presents some of the same values her mom emphasized as a kid; the importance of cooking and eating as a family to make food fun.  Melissa and her students assist our nutrition educators in our classrooms as well as help Houston area chefs at our We're Cooking Now! A Gala in Small Bites dinners.  

Melissa is happy to say that she already has her dream job!  She loves to teach and provide her students with life skills and confidence.  Some of her most memorable moments in her classroom are when lessons do not go as expected.  She finds the beauty in and importance of mistakes and learning how to correct the errors.  In ten years, she hopes to still be teaching, involved in the education system, and giving back to her community. She loves inspiring her students and seeing everything that they accomplish!

We hope to have Melissa apart of our volunteer team for many years to come!  We appreciate all of the help that she and her students have provided.

Please contact our Volunteer and Community Outreach Coordinator, if you would like to get involved or know more about our Small Bites dinners.

Two Acres Is All You Need

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backyard_farm.jpgEver wonder just how much spaceyou would need to generate your own food and household energy?  Love this pictograph that shows us.

June's Volunteer of the Month

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shaireen.jpgShaireen is one of our most frequent and dedicated volunteers.  She helps our nutrition educators at Rodriguez Elementary School three days a week from 8:30am until 3:30pm!  She is originally from India, but moved to the United States to obtain a nutritional sciences degree from Michigan State University.  She enjoys gardening, cooking, watching movies, and hiking.  Shaireen initially found Recipe for Success because she wanted to volunteer with an organization that mixed her personal interests with her educational background.   This is the perfect fit for her and commends Recipe for Success teaching nutrition and healthy eating habits to young students.  She is always pleasantly surprised with the students at Rodriguez because they have great input about food and making their lives healthier.   Since volunteering with Recipe for Success, Shaireen is now considering a Master's degree in Education. 


We really appreciate all of Shaireen's hardwork and will be looking forward to her volunteering with us next school year!

May's Volunteer of the Month

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May-VOTM.jpgAngelica Archilla is our volunteer of the month for May!  She was raised in Colombia, but has lived all over the world before moving to and falling in love with Houston!  Angelica has a burning passion for nutrition and fitness.  She loves to try new recipes and competes in triathlons and half marathons in her spare time.  She started volunteering with Recipe for Success 3 years ago with Chef Kendall at Rodriguez Elementary.  Angelica took some time off, but came back to us earlier this year.  Before starting back up, we had a chat about how she specifically wanted to help parents make healthier decisions for their children.  I knew in that moment that she would be the perfect fit for our parent class at Rodriguez.  She thinks the parent class is "right on point" by boosting awareness and education about nutrition and the current obesity epidemic.  She says the class is more like a team because everyone has the same end goal, better health for our children.  They are able to share tips, input, opinions, and recipes with each other. 

Her most memorable experience with Recipe for Success thus far is a field trip to Fiesta Mart.  It was a revealing and enlightening moment for the parents about healthy choices they can make in the grocery store.

We are happy to have Angelica apart of the Recipe for Success team and appreciate all of her hard work at Rodriguez!

Our parent class is taught in Spanish every other Wednesday morning at Rodriguez Elementary.  It follows a similar structure to our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education; teaching parents the nutritional benefits of gardening and cooking through experiential learning.  If you would like to bring a parent class to a school near you, email us at!

MacGregor teachers VegOut!

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TeacherClass-Prep.jpgDuring our VegOut! 30 Ways in 30 Days Challenge, 11 MacGregor Elementary School teachers and their PTO president, Tiffany Spurlock, participated in a cooking class led by Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ instructors Chef Alyssa and Recipe Gardens Coordinator, Justin. The group prepared and enjoyed an impressive and healthy spring feast that inlcuded: sun-dried tomato hummus with veggie dippers, kale salad, coconut milk polenta with stir-fried seasonal veggies, and gluten-free macaroons! All who took part had tons of fun while reinforcing healthy eating habits.


Kale salad... YUM!


Bon appetite!

VegOut! Costume Contest

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VO-costumes.jpgAmong the many community members who stepped up to the plate to VegOut! with Recipe for Success this spring were faculty, staff and students of River Oaks Elementary, who've had tons of fun celebrating veggies, including with a VegOut! Costume Contest. Students got creative and went all out, entering school dressed as their favorite vegetable to compete for fun prizes. 

See more images of these health-minded cuties here.

April's Volunteer of the Month

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dress for dinner 413.JPGDee McBride (left) and Suzanne Williams (right)

Recipe for Success Foundation is pleased to have Suzanne Williams as April's Volunteer of the Month.  Originally from Anchorage, Alaska, Suzanne has been living in Houston for the last 7 years.  She loves to travel, workout, and eat great healthy food with her husband and son!  After retirement, Suzanne wanted to continue to do meaningful work.  With a little research and a growing interest in the First Lady's, Let's Move campaign, Suzanne was able to find Recipe for Success.  As a mom, she wants to be part of an organization that helps children have healthier eating habits.  Her decision to help RFS was reinforced when speaking with another volunteer.  The volunteer spoke about how he sees continued effects of RFS in our students' lives even after they graduate from the program.  This warmed Suzanne's heart because she knew that Recipe for Success' program is working and having a tremendous impact on the children we educate.   

Suzanne is a very beneficial piece to our office.  She helps Marisol, our Special Projects Coordinator, and other staff members with office projects every Thursday morning.  One thing Suzanne takes from RFS is that a healthy and satisfying meal does not have to always include meat, as long as fresh ingredients packed full of  flavor are used.  We appreciate Suzanne and all of the work she has done for Recipe for Success.  We hope to have her around for many years to come!

If you would to become a volunteer, please fill out our Volunteer Interest Survey.

RFS at Lyons' Annual Health Fair

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Last week, Lyons Elementary School, one of our thriving Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program sites, held its annual health fair to showcase different programs and resources to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Students and parents explored different info tables, including the Recipe for Success table, run with the help of some of our cooking-and-gardening savvy program students.

See an event photo gallery here.

Will Isbell's Carrot Rainbow

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Will Isbell Carrots-closeup.jpgImagine our thrill and bewilderment when veteran Recipe for Success volunteer Will Isbell entered RecipeHouse with not one, but THREE boxes overflowing with beautiful carrots.

The rainbow of varietals came from the AgriLife Extension Center and are part of a research trial to evaluate 20 different varieties of carrots grown in AgriLife's vegetable research garden. A taste test was performed on the carrots after they were harvested and the juice from each variety was measured for sweetness.

After all testing is complete, they will publish the results in an effort to update our area's vegetable variety planting recommendations. All of this is to further Agrilife's mission to improve the lives of people, businesses, and communities across Texas and beyond through high-quality, relevant education. 

Will Isbell Carrots-Sliced.jpgWill is quite familiar with Recipe for Success' similar efforts to educate kids about food. He has been a volunteer with us for about four years and is active in Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ gardening classes and garden builds, and has led special insect education presentations for our schools and during Eat This! Summer Camp™.

So thanks, Will, for sharing these lovely carrots, which ended up in the eager hands of students at MacGregor, Briscoe, and Rodriguez elementary schools!

Did we get you craving a carrot-forward recipe? Hope so! Watch Chef Kendall to learn how to create our bright and tasty Rainbow Slaw.

My Favorite Holiday Food

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Jacqueline Marroquin pic.png

Congratulations to our 2012 Journalism Contest winner, Jaqueline Marroquin, from Whittier Elementary!

Guatemalan Tamales, by Jaqueline Morroquin

It's Christmas time!  And you know what that means... It's time to make some delicious Guatemalan Tamales.  My mom is from Guatemala and all her family gets together during the holidays and celebrates with food and gifts.  In American, our relatives come together to celebrate every holiday.  Every year, we always make tamales from Guatemala.  It was made from more than three thousand years ago from the Mayan culture.

They smell like bananas and are wrapped with banana leaves. They look rectangular shaped and forest green when their covered. When you unwrap them, they look like porridge or grits.  They have a mushy mashed potato taste, only better because they are made of white rice.           

There are three major ingredients to make a tamale.  The first is rice, the second is recado (Guatemalan gravy), and the third is chicken.  I will list all of my ingredients. I got these from my Aunt Irma.  This recipe will feed about 40 people.

For the rice: 10 pounds of white rice, a gallon of hot water, 1 liter of oil and salt. Banana leaves.

For the recado: tomatoes, pepitoria seeds, ajonjolin seeds, dried chily, onions, tomatillias.

For the chicker: 2 whole chickens, comino spice, cebollo, tomate.

(All of these things are cooked separately. At the end they are all combined.

To prepare the rice, the first thing you do is heat the water to boiling. Then before you put the rice in the water, you ground it. In Guatemala, they use a big stone to grind the rice.  Here in the U.S. we use a blender.  OPnce you grind the rice, you can boil it.  Then you put in the salt and the oil.  It is very important that you stir with a big wooden stick all the rice or else it will burn and turn black.

To prepare the recado is easy.  You get all the ingredients for the recado and you put them in the blender and mix them. That was easy.

For the chicken: You cook the chicken for 1 hour and throw in all your spices.  Set aside when that is done.

Once you've cooked the rice, prepared the recado and cooked the chicken, then follow the steps:

  1. Place banana leaf on top of aluminum foil.
  2. Put rice on top of banana leaf.
  3. Place a piece of chicken on top of rice.
  4. Put recado (gravy) on top of chicken.
  5. Wrap the tamale in the banana leaf.
  6. Do this to all the tamales and put them in a pot.
  7. Heat tamales for 2 hours.
  8. Eat and enjoy your Christmas Guatemala Tamales!!!

Congratulations to our school finalists:

Ivan Angel, MacGregor Elementary

Nathaniel Cabrera, Shadow Oaks Elementary

Cristal Gonzalez, Field Elementary

Estefania Huerta, Rodriguez Elementary

Noah Martinez, Lyons Elementary

Sarahi Perales, Briscoe Elementary

Olga Robles, Scarborough Elementary

November Volunteer of the Month: Evelyn D'Hooghe

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Evelyn D'Hooghe.pngEvelyn grew up in Belgium, famous for its chocolate, beer, and French fries. She moved to the United States with her husband five years ago and fell in love with crawfish and Houston's multi-cultural cuisine. She recently graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition in NYC and is now a certified holistic health counselor in the process of establishing her own business. Evelyn intends to focus on helping people "reconnect with their body and environment using food and lifestyle changes." Evelyn describes her clientele base as "people who are ready for a change and who realize that diets don't work."

Part of settling into a city and making it feel like home is settling into the community. Evelyn, interested in turning Houston into her home, sought out community events and involvement, which eventually led her to Recipe for Success: "I spoke with a former volunteer at an art fair, and then I saw an RFS booth at Food Day in Houston Downtown. I immediately signed up!" Evelyn volunteers with Recipe for Success because it is the ideal way to give back and connect with the community. By volunteering with RFS, she is also better able to understand how small organizations fight national issues, such as childhood obesity. In addition to all this, "it's just fun to do, especially when you see the kids loving the cooking and gardening." One of her favorite parts of the culinary class is when all the students shout "bon appetite" before enjoying the meal they made.

When she is not volunteering with Recipe for Success or helping others "reconnect" through food and lifestyle changes, you can find Evelyn doing one of the following: socializing, dancing salsa, practicing yoga, playing the djembe, biking, cooking, discovering new foods, gardening, or traveling. Evelyn has toured the United States, Europe and Latin America. She hopes to explore and Asia and Africa in the near future.

Volunteer of the Month: Priti Vakil

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Priti Vakil
Nine years ago, Priti ventured into the kitchens of the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Houston and hasn't looked back since. She earned her second degree in Culinary Arts at night while working as a Senior Enterprise Account Executive in the IT and Communications field by day.  In 2005, she graduated and, soon after, started a family. These days, Priti still works at Verizon Enterprise Solutions during the day and explores culinary pursuits in the evenings and on weekends. Her husband and two sons reap the rewards and health benefits of Priti's culinary training.

Priti is drawn to the Recipe for Success mission and has hopes of taking it transcontinental. Her long-term dream is to return to India with her family and to impact the eating and nutrition education of a few small communities in the central region of India in the state of Gujarat.

Priti discovered Recipe for Success through a friend at her local moms' organization, Bellaire Young Mothers. Soon after, Priti became a dedicated volunteer and supporter of the RFS.  She has played an active part in practically every aspect of Recipe for Success. First, she became a member of the Spice Guild and a volunteer at Rodriguez Elementary. She loved helping children learn how to make healthy decisions. Now, due to her schedule, most of her volunteer work centers around evening events like Small Bites and Dress for Dinner.  Priti looks forward to returning to the classroom and gardens as soon as she has a few free hours in her daytime schedule.

When Priti is not playing her role as Senior Account Executive, spending time with her family, volunteering her time at RFS events, she is reading, traveling, cooking or doing some combination of the three. This April, Priti and her family went to Italy and took classes with the local farmers and families. They learned to cook fresh, regional Perugian dishes including pizzas, pastas and desserts that require minimal ingredients, optimal flavor and come from the local farms.  Priti was amazed at how these farmers practice everyday what we are trying to teach our children here in the States: local fresh produce with simple ingredients and simple techniques.