Making Veggie Pizza with the Kids From “Recipe for Success”

by Bettina Elias Siegel on March 29, 2011

Last week I volunteered (as I do every month) with Recipe for Success, a wonderful “seed to plate” organization that brings school gardens and chefs to schools.

Along with celebrity chef Monica Pope, RFS Director of Operations Molly Graham and two other volunteers, our fourth-grade class made veggie pizza using ingredients from the school garden.  In lieu of tomato sauce, we made a pesto that included fresh thyme and oregano, and the toppings included kale, peppers, green onions, yellow squash and tomatoes.

One volunteer heard a little push-back when it was time to sample the finished product — too many vegetables! — but it seemed to me when I looked around the table that most, if not all, kids were eating enthusiastically.

For me, the most memorable aspect of this class was when Chef Molly asked my group to identify the fresh oregano.  These children come from an underprivileged population and most educated adults probably couldn’t identify fresh oregano on sight, but it was dismaying to hear my kids shout out answers like “broccoli” and “spinach,” showing a pretty high level of food illiteracy.

Another reason why programs like Recipe for Success are so critical.

I’ll report back after my next volunteer session in April.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Donna March 29, 2011 at 7:25 am

I was pleasantly surprised to see the students scarf down the pizza, especially since the veggie toppings were raw and didn’t have the cheese as camouflage!

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Bettina Elias Siegel March 29, 2011 at 8:02 am

Agreed! I KNOW one of my kids wouldn’t have eaten it, at least not with me around. But then again, that’s part of the magic -doing this in school, away from parents, with hands-on cooking and a little peer pressure thrown in.

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jenna Food w/ Kid Appeal March 30, 2011 at 8:47 am

i could NEVER teach my child to swim. they fear the water and since i’m the security blanket, they cling on for dear life. however a non-me person can teach my child to swim. same thing with reading. i would have been horrible at teaching my child to read, not only because i’m not a trained literacy expert, but also because my fearful child would want me to protect him during those uncertain moments of stammering over an unknown word or sound.

eating issues are the same. kids who fear or are wary of unfamiliar foods often behave so differently with other adults and with peers who are practicing the same skills (new food acceptance).

so many kids will eat things at school, at a friends house, with another community group than they would at home for all the reasons listed above.

parents don’t need to feel ashamed for not being nutrition, food literacy experts. but they should believe their kids are capable of becoming food literate with the right guidance, inside or outside the home.

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Bettina Elias Siegel March 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

All true and well put, Jenna. I will say, though, that my veggie-phobe refuses to eat the veggies lovingly grown and tended by his class at school. Maybe I have a particularly hard case. And maybe in a program like Recipe for Success, with the added cooking and chef involvement, he’d go for it. But you’re right that we shouldn’t label children and move on. I use “veggie-phobe” here as shorthand so we all know which kid I’m talking about and what the issue is, but in truth, I’ve seen slow but steady progress. More on that in a post now in the works.

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