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Posts by Shannon Simmons
Truck Farm is back! Last week DC Central Kitchen staff prepared the truck for its third year as a traveling, edible garden exhibit aimed at introducing the city’s youth to gardening and fresh, healthy foods. The bed of our Truck Farm is now growing carrots, snap peas, bush beans, lemon thyme, purple sage and about twenty other vegetables and herbs.
We’d like to thank our financial sponsors, the Aetna Foundation and the 15 Foundation, for making this work possible. More thanks to Old City Farm and Guild for donating seedlings for last week’s planting and Johnson Florist and Garden Center for donating supplies.
During this year’s growing season, we will be taking the Truck Farm to visit kids at the youth agencies, schools, and Healthy Corners stores that we serve, as well as city farmers markets. During each visit we’ll introduce kids to gardening and show them that it really is possible to grow your own food right here in the city. Each hands on session allows kids to touch, smell and even taste fresh veggies and herbs.
The Truck Farm is an important part of our wrap-around approach to ending childhood hunger. The program generates enthusiasm about eating fresh foods and increases participation in the healthy, scratch-cooked meals we deliver to ten DC schools in Ward 5, 7, and 8 by using lessons to generate enthusiasm about the fresh fruits and vegetables on their lunch trays.
Make room in that kitchen, mom and dad. Pre-Kindergarten students at Walker Jones Education Campus are learning that you’re never too young to help cook a healthy meal. On Tuesday mornings, three and four year-old students will participate in hands-on cooking lessons in the Walker Jones Food Lab.
Starting in January 2013, DC Central Kitchen’s chefs Ed Kwitowski and Christina Brown along with Katie Nash, R.D., will teach weekly lessons to WJA students simple cooking and baking techniques. The team will use kid-friendly recipes featuring fresh fruits and vegetables in weekly lessons. In early January, students in the first class rolled up their sleeves and learned to make “Smashed Bean Burritos,” mashing beans and salsa in Ziploc bags to fill and bake burritos.
The lessons also give WJA an opportunity to extend its Food Lab, a classroom dedicated to teaching the basics of cooking and nutrition, to the younger students. The Food Lab incorporates the school’s urban farm into its curriculum to educate children about their food sources. Ultimately, DC Central Kitchen and Walker Jones are aiming to encourage students to try new foods and empower them to cook healthy meals in their kitchens at home.
Think back to when you were in school. Did you ever get to try grilled BBQ beef bulgogi? How about curried chick peas, cauliflower gratin, red cabbage coleslaw, roasted beets, whole wheat bread stuffing, or Asia- style Brussels slaw? Before DC Central Kitchen produced meals for DC Public Schools, many of the kids had never tried whole grain pasta or raw kale.
We’ve learned that cultivating adventurous eaters, ones who are willing to give anything an honest try, takes time, repeated exposure, and a little one-on-one attention. And when healthy food is prepared the right way, most kids will give it a try! Kids get really excited about trying a specially prepared sample in an individual cup served to them by one of our chefs!
When the kids learn about a new food they like, they often talk about it at home. They ask their parents to provide the same food they’re getting at school. But if they live far from an affordable grocery store, it’s often hard to make those healthy meals at home. This is why we’ve partnered with 30 DC corner stores to bring many of the fresh ingredients and healthy snacks to their neighborhoods.
We’ve learned through our work at DC Public Schools that most kids want to eat healthy, but they aren’t being exposed to a variety of healthy food prepared in kid-friendly ways. This means going beyond simply providing vegetables as a side, to planning a variety of thoughtfully prepared dishes to give kids a wider palate. By cultivating adventurous eaters, we’re actually setting kids up to eat healthier for the rest of their lives.
You can join us to create brighter futures for DC families. Visit our Donate page and invest in our effort to push nutritional barriers and promote health in DC neighborhoods.
As part of our effort to promote the fresh produce in our Healthy Corners stores, DC Central Kitchen participated in last week’s Ward 8 Turkey Giveaway. We handed out sweet potatoes and recipes and gave the community a taste of the healthy fresh food they can find in their neighborhoods.
Residents lined up by the hundreds outside of Union Temple Church in Anacostia to receive one of the two thousand turkeys being distributed to ensure a well nourished holiday for local families.
Healthy Corners was there to add to the holiday bounty, passing out 200 pounds of sweet potatoes. Participants were given two sweet potatoes along with a simple recipe for preparation and a banana and some trail mix to snack on while waiting for turkeys.
Many of those who stopped by were pleasantly surprised to hear of our two Healthy Corners stores within walking distance of Union Temple Church that sell reasonably priced fresh fruits, vegetables and healthy snacks.
Get our recipe for Simple Sauteed Sweet Potatoes here.
Q: The last time we caught up with you was on camera at your graduation from the Culinary Job Training program back in December when you had just been offered a job. What have you been up to?
SW: Right before graduation I was offered a part-time job working in a market that provides catering services. I was excited to have a job offer, but would have liked to have full-time hours. When Tim Miller, Director of Contract Foods at DC Central Kitchen’s Nutrition Lab, heard that I was looking for full-time work, he offered me a utility position at the Nutrition Lab I’ve been at the Nutrition Lab for ten months now.
Q: How have things been going at the Nutrition Lab?
SW: Really well! I worked in the utility position for a couple of months and then moved over to transportation, delivering meals. Now I’ve just started working on production in the kitchen. I’ve really had the chance to rise to the occasion and show what I’m able to do.
Q: What additional skills have you been able to pick up here at the Lab that you weren’t able to cover in class?
SW: From washing dishes to cooking, from taking inventory to ordering, I’m getting a chance to learn how to do everything in that kitchen. Not to mention that my math skills have really gotten better!
Q: You mentioned that you had hoped to end up at the Nutrition Lab. Has working at the Kitchen lived up to your expectations?
SW: The hardest part of the whole class was finding a job. When I was asked to work here, it made all of the worthwhile. Coming over to the Lab really just felt like coming home.
Q: Graduates always say the hardest part of CJT is the life-skills class. How have you continued to address your personal challenges since graduation?
SW: I still have some things that I continue to work through. One thing that really helps is that the people here at the Lab stick behind me the whole time as I work through my problems, which makes me want to keep bettering myself. The support I receive shows me that it’s not just a job. It shows that my coworkers really care about me.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job at the Nutrition Lab?
SW: Honestly, just coming into work and being around the people that I work with. We work hard, but we have a lot of fun doing it. I’ve never in my life had a job where I wake up and actually want to go to work. Every day I learn something new. There isn’t a person in the building who hasn’t taught me something.