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.”