Cooking in the Classroom with Recipe for Success

I mentioned in September that I’d signed up to volunteer with the Recipe for Success Foundation, a seed-to-plate educational program that is the largest of its kind in the country.  (Gracie Cavnar, the founder of the organization, guest blogged here a few weeks ago.)

Late last month, I had my second chance to cook with fourth graders from a local elementary school, along with celebrity chef Monica Pope; RFS Director of Operations, chef Molly Graham; and two other parent volunteers.  We prepared a “1-2-3 Salad” (originally created by Monica) that contained quinoa, feta, nuts, and dried cranberries, all atop a mix of lettuces and dressed with a vinaigrette mixed by the children.

Had I served this salad to my own children, I’m fairly certain that neither would have touched it (both are currently anti-salad, although I can see glimmers of hope for the future.)  Yet the children in my cooking group — all black and Hispanic, most from economically disadvantaged homes, and most having never before heard of quinoa, feta or vinaigrette — dove in and ate their salads with gusto.

What are the long term benefits of such an experience?  Will eating that salad improve their food choices outside the classroom?  Will mixing a vinaigrette make them more likely to want to cook at home, and therefore eat fewer processed and fast foods in the long run?  Recipe for Success would say “yes” to these questions, and I sincerely hope that’s the case.

All I know is, I left the class impressed by what I’d seen and looking forward to our next session.  We’ll be taking a field trip to Monica’s restaurant, t’afia, and doing some cooking there as well.  I’ll report back here.


  1. says

    studies show that interventions, like cooking classes, do work. they take time, and i believe they are half the equation. one part is food availability. it’s hard for kids to pick unfamiliar wholesome food when familiar junkier food is available. but participation is king. food isn’t nutritious unless it’s eaten. you can do all the menu modifications you want, but if kids aren’t taking it and eating it, the menu changes won’t be sustainable.

    the other half of the equation are interventions like cooking classes, tastings, classroom curriculum, gardening, etc. without both pieces school food reform will not advance. training tastebuds is like learning to read. you can’t just make the alphabet song and books available. you have to practice reading with kids, and expose them to opportunities to link letters to words and words to stories. after time they learn to read. any kid who can learn to read, can train their taste buds, given the right interventions.

    here are a couple studies that link interventions to increased participation in wholesome food. i’d love to see what data recipe 4 success has. how much has fruit/vege participation gone up in seed to plate schools? over what period of time?


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