May 2012 Archives

Volunteer of the Month...Annie Blaine

Adrienne Ryherd
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AnnieJuneVolunteer.jpgAnnie Blaine, although new to the Houston area, is no stranger to food advocacy issues. During her final year at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York, where she majored in history, Annie realized that she wanted to participate in the food education movement.  In New York City, Annie worked for an environmental nonprofit, helping to set up a CSA, connecting it to a farm outside the city, and setting up nutritional cooking classes. Once she moved to Portland, Oregon, Annie worked for an energy efficiency-consulting firm, but decided that she was still missing the educational component, which she believes is essential in food advocacy.

After making the trek south to Houston, Annie was eager to discuss networking ideas that would help her ease into the field of education, food security and environmental issues, and in a twist of fate, her contact turned out to be a Recipe for Success board member.

Because Annie knew she wanted to get a "real feel" for what Recipe for Success is all about, she started volunteering in Chef Alyssa's MacGregor classroom and fell in love with the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition EducationÔ program and the students.

"I like the idea that kids get to grow their own vegetables. They were so enthusiastic."

Growing up, Annie ate fresh vegetables from her family garden, attended food-centered lectures and assisted with field studies for the fresh water lab that her grandparents helped to fund in Pennsylvania, a lifestyle that no doubt laid the foundation for her interest in local, healthy food education. An avid traveler and lover of tennis and hiking, Annie's activeness speaks to her passion for a healthy lifestyle.

After living in several areas of the country, Annie looks forward to growing her food advocacy knowledge right here in Houston, Texas.

Mythbusters: Reading Between the Price Tags

Adrienne Ryherd
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5:21mythbustersblog.jpgThe widely accepted mantra that healthy food is more expensive than junk food has officially been squashed by new USDA research. With the pervasive fear of a rising grocery bill one of the main reasons why more people don't buy fresh, healthy produce, eaters everywhere will be pleasantly surprised to find out that delicious meals can be both affordable and nutritious, a combination that families nationwide try to achieve when setting the dinner table.

"The price of potato chips is nearly twice as expensive as the price of carrots by portion size," Statesman Journal

Although the research and numbers can be dizzying at times, there is an easier way to simplify your grocery store experience and level out your food budget: eat more fresh produce, beans and grains. You can save money on whole fruits and vegetables (as opposed to processed and individually packaged fruit products) and all it takes is a little extra time and effort in the kitchen, a welcome trade for those watching their wallets. As with any type of research, there are outliers - the healthy foods that are indeed more expensive than the unhealthy foods - but in general, evidence is in favor of fresh, flavorful and frugal foods.

Widening the research lens, the long-term effects of eating an unhealthy diet are deleterious to the nation's pocketbook. "By some estimates, nearly 21 percent of all current medical spending in the United States is now obesity related." Brookings Institute Health Care Costs Healthcare costs (regarding the chronic illnesses that are obesity related Chronic Diseases) at a national level, are a shared expense, making the issue that much more important to eaters nationwide.

The nationally-recognized Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education (S2P) program at Recipe for Success Foundation, with its in school cooking and gardening classes, teaches children about the entire food process, encouraging interaction and excitement about fresh produce. Brightly-colored vegetables and fruits are the stars of the S2P hands on meals, with fresh pesto-topped whole wheat pizzas or fruit salads with yogurt toppings delighting the taste buds and challenging the much debated view that children prefer packaged, processed foods over healthy, whole foods.

Fear the cash register no more. Trade in that bag of potato chips for a bag of carrots and see the (financial and health) results!

How will you adjust your grocery list?

Stealthy Sugars

Adrienne Ryherd
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5.17updatedBriscophoto.jpgCupcakes, candy bars, burgers and fries are the usual suspects in the obesity lineup. But what about the culprits that are less discussed but still just as guilty? We're not talking about junk food. We're talking about junk drink.

Think about it. High amounts of sugars, calories and fats that are easily consumable in liquid form are a sure fire way to over-consumption of necessary daily calories, especially if, as is the case for a rising number of children, the calories are not being burned off with physical activity.

"Many children are consuming 300 calories per day or more, just in sugar-containing beverages." CNN Soda and Obesity And we're not just talking about the omnipresent soda. Fruit punch and chocolate milk are also top offenders. What may be presented as a healthy drink option could have more sugar and fat than a dessert. Confused? Surprised? Well, the good news is that there is an easy solution. Drink more water, unflavored milk and real fruit juices. Cutting out the sugary drinks is easier than trying to rid yourself of the extra calories with a vigorous workout.

While eating healthier - buying fresh produce and finding the time to cook - may present an obstacle to some, drinking healthier liquids is straightforward and simple, especially if the new drink of choice is water. Affordable and accessible, water, when replacing the sugary drinks, will cut out unwanted calories in an inexpensive and effortless manner.

"Not only is water calorie-free, but drinking it teaches kids to accept a low-flavor, no-sugar beverage as a thirst-quencher." KidsHealth Accepting this pure and sugarless drink as a party of their regular eating and drinking habits will potentially instill a lifetime of lower calorie consumption and presumably a healthier weight.

Training the taste buds as well as the mind is just what's going on in the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education (S2P) classrooms. Focused on fresh, healthy and whole foods, the students learn to appreciate and actually enjoy (and request) unprocessed, non-sugary foods that are both delicious and nutritious. In the interactive learning environment, the students are applying their healthy food knowledge to situations and meals outside the classroom, including what to eat and drink at home or while at a restaurant.

Remember to include the "under-the-radar liquids" next time you are discussing nutrition and healthy living with children (and adults, for that matter).

Need a recipe for a delicious and nutritious flavorful drink made from natural, whole ingredients? Look no further!

Sunshine Smoothies

Yield: 4-6 tastings


1 cup                       orange juice, fresh squeezed

¾ cup                      fresh or frozen cantaloupe

1                              fresh or frozen banana

½ cup                      plain yogurt

½ tablespoon           honey

                                frozen grapes for garnish


    Remove grapes from stems and place in the freezer.
    Slice the oranges in half and squeeze over a fine mesh strainer to catch the seeds (or use a juice reamer).
    Slice the cantaloupe in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.
    Scoop the fruit out into a bowl.
    Peel the banana and slice into 1 inch pieces.
    Measure the yogurt and honey.
    Add all ingredients into a blender and place the lid on tightly.
    Blend until smooth and creamy.
    Taste to see if a little more honey needs to be added.
     Pour into glasses, garnish with frozen grapes, and enjoy!


Note:  You can make this recipe into several different kinds of smoothies by using different juices or different fruits. How many different smoothie combinations can you come up with?

Little Chefs, Big Culinary Skills: Iron Chef Competition

Adrienne Ryherd
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BriscoIronChef2.jpgAs the fourth graders filed into the Recipe for Success (RFS) Classroom, the excitement was tangible. Today was the day for the Iron Chef Competition, a contest specifically organized as a fun and interactive wrap up for the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education (S2P) class. And these little chefs were armed and ready for this culinary battle.

Battle Fruit Salad with Berry Yogurt Topping

As soon as distinguished Chef Barbara McKnight of Catering by Culinaire - volunteer through RFS Chefs in Schools Program - and Briscoe S2P Team Leader Anne Weinheimer gave the students a few tips and reminders, the students energetically went to work. Each workstation, outfitted with recipes, ingredients, bowls and knives, had four to five students, all who were bubbling over with eagerness to play their part in the preparation. A rainbow of colors, the smell of oranges, apples, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, mango and basil (yes, basil) wafted through the air as the busy little hands chopped, peeled and mixed with confidence and ease.

In charge of every step of the process, the students utilized all of their S2P knowledge as they easily transitioned into chef mode, discussing recipes and smelling their ingredients before using them. With a sense of control and responsibility, these little chefs were intent on creating the perfect bowl of fruit salad. And let's not forget the berry yogurt topping! The students whipped up a healthy and delicious topping that they could hardly wait to mix in to reveal their finished products.

BriscoIronChef3.jpgAs the students enthusiastically and animatedly took (somewhat) surreptitious bites of their ingredients, it was clear that the RFS motto "making healthy food fun" was truly at work in this classroom, connecting students to healthy, vibrant and whole fruits and vegetables and giving them the self-assurance to venture out and try new foods.

The judges - Chef Barbara McKnight, Juan Rosa (from Fiesta) and Molly Kaminski (RFS staff) surveyed the creative chaos, taking note of stellar teamwork and cleanliness.

Once the students presented their finished products to the judges, they sat down and eagerly awaited the results. The four categories included: presentation, teamwork, cleanliness and overall dish.

After the judges announced the winners of each category, to much applause and cheers, the students then dug into their own bowls of fruit salad, congratulating each other on the flavors and colors of their dishes, all the while unknowingly reinforcing long term healthy eating habits.

How do you get your fill of fruit each day?

And the Award Goes To... School Nutrition Employee Week

Adrienne Ryherd
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School Nutrition Employee Week, May 7-11, seems to carry even more significance than usual this year, with lunchrooms at the center of national news regarding issues such as the pink slime debate Huffington Post Pink Slime for Lunch and also, in a more positive light, the current school lunch regulations USDA school lunch regulations. With the cafeteria in the spotlight - whether it's for positive or negative coverage - it's easy to get caught up in the national conversation and broad-spectrum issues, but for at least this one week (and all the rest of the school year, for that matter) we should take a step back and salute our school nutrition employees.

Balancing tight budgets, complex nutrition regulation and strict food safety requirements, cafeteria workers Tray Talk Blog do their best to serve the hundreds of students they see each day a meal that will feed the stomach and the mind. Just as lunchtime is at the center of each school, healthy eating is at the center of an alert and functioning mind.

4.30.12SNEWblogpost.jpgAs we raise our forks in support of school nutrition employees, we need to remember that cafeteria workers - although they are the first to come to mind - are not the only school professionals that influence our children's eating habits. The shift towards healthier eating in the lunchroom is part of the overall shift towards a healthier lifestyle.

Recipe for Success Foundation's (RFS) award winning Seed-to-Plate Nutrition EducationÔ (S2P) program offers a fully integrated cooking and gardening program that complements the students' core curriculum learning objectives. This S2P program provides students with the tools they need to make positive eating choices once they leave their cooking or gardening class; these choices are put to the test in the lunchroom and at home, putting their S2P knowledge to use as they make dietary decisions.

Now is the time for all school nutrition employees, no matter how directly or indirectly they are involved in the students' food education, to join forces and work in tandem towards the unifying goal of healthier students.

For some ideas of how you can celebrate School Nutrition Employee Week, check this out: School Nutrition

Do you have any creative ways to honor your favorite school nutrition employee?

Soon we will have a necklace of urban farms in Houston--Hope Farms!

Gracie Cavnar
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See the full episode at
Meet the ordinary people who bring food production back to basics in this clip from AMERICA REVEALED "Food Machine." New four-part series premieres Wednesday, April 11, 10/9c on PBS.