In order to encourage healthier eating habits, the Orfalea Foundation, located in Santa Barbara, have joined up with both the Santa Ynez Elementary School and the Santa Ynez Charter School. The schools goal is to serve lunches that are made fresh every single day, in accordance with the s’Cool Food Initiative. Fresh vending options are important for all children to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
As part of the program, both schools participated in a recent program, the Junior Chef. Each classroom took 15 minutes to prepare and cook a vegetable stew known as ratatouille. Each individual child got to work with Chef Educator Andrea Martin on October 14th on the ratatouille. The stew contained all fresh and seasonal ingredients, including eggplant, kale and heirloom tomatoes. The next day, the schools enjoyed the soup and the hard work they put into making it.
“These events create excitement and enthusiasm in the school community, teach young people more about where food comes from, and encourage them to try new foods,” stated Colleen Million, who is the director of the charter school.
The purpose of the s’Cool Food Initiative is to help reform the school lunch programs all over the county with Culinary Bootcamps. Culinary Bootcamps are intensive training programs that last week long in the schools’ cafeterias to help promote meals cooked from scratch. Junior Chef Days help to engage the children in the preparation of the meals, and Cool Gardens teach kids about the growing of fresh food, all while meeting the state’s specific educational standards.
Both schools were awarded a grant this past summer from the Orfalea Foundation for new cooking facilities and equipment for use with the joint lunch program. For favorites like pizza, staff are now making the homemade version using wheat bread and fresh produce out of the student garden. Fresh healthy vending choices can help kids make the right decisions when it comes to their meals.
“Bad eating habits can translate into obesity and other health issues down the road for these students. By involving them in the process, they love the end result and you don’t have to twist any arms to get them to eat vegetables,” Martin said.
Martin, who is a consultant working for the Orfalea Foundation, is in the process of introducing the Junior Chef program to schools statewide. She has already implemented the fresh vending program into seven schools in the county this year, as well as the 30 that participated last year.
According to one parent, Alice Taylor, her daughter Cameron was a very picky eater before the new program was introduced. Now though, she has a much better attitude towards trying new foods. “She’s choosing more vegetables and willing to try new things. It amazed me to see her eating the ratatouille,” Taylor said.