March 2012 Archives

Volunteer of the Month...Jamie Lee

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Jamie, originally from Malaysia, moved to the Houston area about 15 years ago. Always interested in nutrition and health, Jamie has had a wide range of working and volunteer experience, from a nutritional representative for infant formula for four years in Malayasia to an internship in an internal medicine in Georgia to volunteer work in nutritional counseling and dietary analysis right here in Houston.
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A recent graduate of University of Houston Science and Nutrition Degree Program, Jamie felt that volunteer work with Recipe for Success Foundation (RFS) was a natural next step for her career in health and nutrition. "The mission statement of RFS is a precursor to what health and nutrition is all about." Jamie is new to the RFS volunteer scene, but she has already noticed big changes in the students and classes she works with. "You think these kids will never touch the healthy food on their plate, but by the end of the program, they are very receptive."

Jamie and her family are very involved in the Houston art scene. Always interested in the newest exhibits at one of the many Houston museums, Jamie's family also has traveled extensively, from Japan to Australia to China to Indonesia, just to name a few exotic adventures.

Already known in the classrooms at many of RFS's program schools, including MacGregor, Briscoe and Rodriguez, Jamie plans to continue volunteering and immersing herself in the healthy food scene.

Thank you, Jamie! We look forward to your continued hard work!

Food Facts: An Educational Pizza Party

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pizza.jpgWho said that learning had to be boring? And who said that pizza had to be that greasy, plastic-looking square on your lunch plate?

Although every Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education class has a common goal of uniting food with knowledge, I had the pleasure of watching as this particular class took it to the next level, integrating science (perfectly paired with the science fair that was held on the same day), math and nutrition all into one, demonstrating that healthy food and learning can be fun and delicious!

Chef Randy Evans, a founding member of the RFS's Chefs Advisory Board, joined S2P Team Leader Chef Alyssa Doyle to teach a class this week that excited the senses and expanded the minds of twenty-five fourth graders.  They will never think of pizza in the same way again.

Whereas normally the pizza crust takes a backseat to the plethora of pizza toppings and sauces, Chef Randy had a different approach; emphasize the process of dough making; after all, you can't have a pizza without it. After pronouncing that dough making was akin to a science experiment (which made all eyes focus on him), he began to spout words and phrases such as "chemical reactions," "carbon dioxide," "activation" and "gluten," while intermittently telling personal stories of a gristmill that he once visited; each story had a purpose, and the students listened attentively, hanging on stimulating sentences such as "flour is an explosive when it's being ground fresh."

Throughout the sauce making (pesto sauce made from the MacGregor School gardens - parsley, spinach and oregano) and topping (bell peppers, tomatoes, goat cheese) process, Chef Randy and Chef Alyssa kept up a steady stream of questions and answers, keeping the students involved. From dividing the pizza into fractions to learning how to activate yeast in the dough to discussing the food groups in the My Plate Pyramid, the classroom of 4th graders had unknowingly combined several different lessons into one, all under the guise of a pizza party.

As Chef Randy put the brightly colored and already fragrant pizzas in the oven, he summed up the lesson with a few thoughts that cut to the heart of what RFS strives to impart on all children. "You need a good balance of all five food groups to keep yourself healthy. When we cook our meals ourselves, we can more easily balance ingredients, and it ends up tasting great."

Do you make pizza with your kids?  What are your family's favorite toppings?

National Nutrition Month: How Do You Celebrate?

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Four weeks of celebrating encouraged by the USDA? Sounds good to me. March is National Nutrition Month, and local, state and national leaders and organizations are jumping on the healthy lifestyle bandwagon to participate in numerous events to raise awareness and interest in promoting healthy diets.

Although the word "celebrate" usually connotes images of excess food and drink, National Nutrition Month celebrations are focused on moderation and nutrition, offering fun and interactive events and outreach programs such as Get Your Plate In Shape, Spot The Block Campaign, and My Plate Community and National Strategic Partners. From the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), with many more organizations on board, National Nutrition Month makes a sweeping effort to reach all eaters and to emphasize the importance of reaching for the healthier food option.

So how will you celebrate National Nutrition Month?

Twelve Houston elementary schools recently participated in the Recipe for Success Foundation (RFS) 5-A-Day Teacher Challenge, daring participating faculty and staff to improve their diets by eating more fruits and vegetables and reporting daily progress to their students. Whether you are a schoolteacher, a parent or a community center leader, there are plenty of fun and educational games and activities to choose from in order to rally interest and participation in striving for healthier eating habits. With online resources such as eatright, offering nutrition-centered games, quiz and videos, and EducationWorld offering everything from nutrition news to healthy food activities to theater scripts centered on fruits and vegetables, there are enough activities to keep children's interest for the entire month of March and beyond!

Recipe for Success Foundation (RFS) works towards making nutrition a lifelong goal. Dedicated to changing the way children understand, appreciate and eat their food, RFS wholeheartedly supports National Nutrition Month, but also works to extend that same level of advocacy and awareness into the everyday lives of our children, encouraging them to make healthy meal and lifestyle choices all year long.

USDA Hires National Director Deborah Kane for Farm to School Program

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The USDA took another step in the right direction with the hire of Deborah Kane as national director for the Farm to School Program. Recognized by the White House as a "Champion of Change" for her work in regional food system development, Kane will join a team that is already working towards expanding the programming and increasing access to fresh foods.

In order for children to be receptive to acquiring and retaining an interest in healthy, fresh food, they need to be involved in the discussion of where their food is coming from. The Farm to School initiative, created in 2007, is "an effort to connect schools (K - 12) with regional or local farms in order to serve healthy meals using locally produced food" The National Farm to School Network works to link children and the community to the story behind their food. From these stories comes more appreciation of the land, animals and labor that goes into producing the next meal, whether in the lunchroom or at the home dining table.

Just as Recipe for Success Foundation (RFS) focuses on involving children in the entire food cycle, implementing programs such as the award winning Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education (S2P) - an interactive, educational in-school program that concentrates on making healthy food fun- the Farm to School Program pushes for healthier understanding of the entire food process, from the soil to the dinner table.  Once students become a more integral part of this process - whether that means discussing which produce are in season, understanding the health benefits of whole foods, visiting a nearby farm, or perhaps even harvesting produce themselves- they will be more likely to incorporate healthier foods into their lifestyle.

Changes - whether incremental or sweeping- in the way food is presented to children are a necessary step in the quest to reverse childhood obesity.