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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Partners DC Central Kitchen and Brainfood teach youth what's healthy and how to make it

Written by Anna Cohen-Price
Elementary School Program Coordinator

The Thomson Tigers were one lucky team last week, as they had the unique privilege of collaborating with two non-profits that do great work in the DC area.

As a part of our winter curriculum, the DC SCORES team at Thomson Elementary School is learning all about healthy eating, nutrition and how to stay active in their busy lives. Last week, an educator from DC Central Kitchen paid a visit to Thomson and facilitated an interactive workshop during which students learned to identify the differences between healthy and unhealthy meals using the “My Plate” model and guessed the varying amounts of sugar in different juices and sodas.

The students were eager to apply their knowledge about nutrition to these new activities, and asked lots of great questions. Kidus, a fifth grader, even offered up some great advice —
“Don’t mix bleach with food!” — which we all found extremely helpful.

The following Thursday, we took a walking field trip to be guests at Brainfood’s MVP program. Brainfood is a non-profit after school program that works with high school students, using food as a tool to build life skills and promote healthy lifestyles. Their Community MVP program allows graduates of the program to lead community members in healthy cooking activities.

The Thomson Tigers had been waiting weeks for this day to come, and the anticipation built as we ventured on a short trek to one of Brainfood’s locations in Mt. Vernon Square (with a fun-filled stop at the DC SCORES office, where the kids got to meet the office staff, included on the way).

After a short walk filled with jokes and countless “are we there yet?” questions, we were greeted at Brainfood by 15 high school students and their supervisor. Once everyone was settled, the MVP’s asked the Thomson students a few questions about their nutrition knowledge.

When asked how we could make cookies healthier, Mikyas shouted: “Because you can take out the sugar and high-fructose corn syrup!!”

Indeed, he was correct.

One MVP told us we would be making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies that afternoon. BUT —
in order to make the cookies a healthy snack, we would be using flaxseed (good for your brain), agave and honey in place of sugar, and avocado in place of butter.

The kids were a little wary at first (admittedly, so was I), especially of the avocado. But once we got cooking, it was so much fun that no one seemed to care that the cookie batter was a little greener than usual.

Each kid got their own copy of the recipe and a fancy Brainfood apron. Students were divided into five small groups, each of which got to make their own batch of cookies with the help of two or three MVPs. Not only did they have the opportunity to learn about (and eat!) delicious healthy snacks, they also got practice in measuring, adding, and many other cooking skills.

With copies of the recipe in hand and bellies full of healthy, homemade snacks, the Thomson Tigers trekked back to their school happily. We are all incredibly thankful to DC Central Kitchen and Brainfood and the MVPs for hosting us and teaching lots of valuable things.

Now students — and I! — can’t wait to try such recipes at home with their families!

Follow DC Central Kitchen (@dcck) and Brainfood (@BrainfoodDC) on Twitter to learn more about the exciting, impactul work they do in our community.

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