Ele­mentary schools kids learn food lit­eracy in Hillsdale Searle Center. Courtesy|Elizabeth Bachmann.

Bon Appétit Mar­keting Coor­di­nator William Persson explained the genesis and goals of the the company’s Healthy Kids program.

“Part of our company mission is to teach people about eating well, and I think this program came out of the fact that children are not always taught that, even though they really enjoy food. Persson said. “We have found that teaching food lit­eracy at a young age is a good way to combat childhood obesity.”

Hannah Schmunk, manager of Bon Appétit’s food edu­cation for children courses, led the class, and pri­marily focused on showing kids “go,” “slow,” and “woah” foods. That is, foods they should always reach for, foods they should eat in mod­er­ation, and foods that they should avoid when pos­sible.

Stu­dents, excited by Schmunks upbeat catch­phrase and per­son­ality, began to dance around, repeating the mantra eagerly.

They curbed their enthu­siasm slightly when Schmunk pro­posed that they all taste a new fruit and veg­etable together that they had never seen before. The can­di­dates were a blood orange and a Jicama, a brown, lumpy tuberous root.

“Kids have an innate food neo­phobia,” Schmunk said. “They see some­thing they don’t know and think ‘that’s scary, no thanks,’” Schmunk said. “For me, the two things I want them to walk away with are that trying new foods doesn’t have to be scary, but it can be a really fun adventure, and that fruits and veg­etables are deli­cious. I want them to leave having tasted at least one fruit and veg­etable that they love.”

Accord­ingly, when Schmunk pulled out the Jicama, most of the kids took one look at it, and decided in unison “ewwwww.” However, after Schmunk explained that tasting new foods could help them dis­cover their new favorite fruits and veg­etables, and that if they tried it and didn’t like it, they would not have to eat it, they jumped out of their seats, demanding their piece of Jicama.

After their lesson and taste testing, stu­dents took their new knowledge over to a pizza making station, where Bon Appétit Catering Manager Rhula Mitcheltree showed them how to make a no-bake tomato sauce using only fresh ingre­dients.

“Making the sauce from scratch demys­tifies things,” Schmunk said. “They are used to seeing sauce in a jar, but what real ingre­dients actually go into it? We turned pizza into a go-food by making the sauce from scratch with really simple whole ingre­dients.”

Stu­dents each rolled out a per­sonal pizza dough, and gar­nished it with the fresh sauce and their choice of fresh veg­etables. Some kids even used a piece of the Jicama as an uncon­ven­tional topping.

“They are very receptive to the inter­active stuff,” Mitcheltree said. “I was watching their little faces light up. And their cre­ativity is amazing. When they were making the pizzas, and using all these dif­ferent colors, I thought to myself ‘I am so linear.’ I was actually learning from them.”

While their pizzas were baking, Schmunk and Mitcheltree helped stu­dents assemble fruit kabobs for dessert, which they dipped in a yogurt, honey, cin­namon sauce. Mitcheltree kept a sharp eye out while the kids wielded their knives, reminding them to “always be the boss of your knife.”

Finally, kabobs and steaming pizzas in hand, kids made their way to table, where they said a prayer of thanks­giving together, and happily tucked into their healthy cre­ations.

“I think some kids think of healthy foods as not so deli­cious, and I just want to flip that in their heads so their mindset towards healthy foods is a pos­itive one,” Schmunk said. The whole idea is that when they think of healthy foods,they think fun, col­orful, deli­cious, adventure, instead of ‘Ick.’ It’s that simple.”