I'm not fond of public speaking, but I went ahead and made the commitment to participate as a Chef - Nutritionist for Operation Frontline ® at our local food bank, The Food Bank of South Jersey. The program is founded by Share Our Strength ®, a national organization that wants no kid in America to grow up hungry. The program involves Chefs, Nutritionists and Registered Dietitians and stresses that when children and families learn how to shop for and prepare healthy, low cost meals; they can avoid the undesirable health and economic effects from hunger and poor dietary nutrition.
Operation Frontline (now known as Cooking Matters) currently operates in 17 states and the District of Columbia. The curriculum is fun and is designed to teach children ages 8-12 about nutrition, foods, cooking and food safety. Operation Frontline workers volunteer to share their knowledge. The Nutritionists teach why it is important to make eating well part of a healthy lifestyle. The Chefs teach how to easily prepare and cook healthy, affordable meals. This exciting new program made its debut in January 2010.
Operation Frontline involves several of my favorite interests, including: cooking, nutrition, food safety and depending on the class, planting seeds and vegetables. I wanted to blog about this to help spread the word about this beneficial program, especially since they depend on volunteers like you and me. Operation Frontline needs your help to bring this program to as many at-risk children and families as possible. They could also use financial support from corporate and culinary school sponsorships. Check out their website for details and to see how you can help (link posted below).
My first class experience was to watch an Operation Frontline team in action. I went to the last day of the program at Cooper’s Poynt Professional Development School, a pre K – 8 family school in North Camden, New Jersey. And it was serious business! The children (ages 8-12) were doing their grand finale ‘Iron Chef’ cook-off. The frenzy of excitement filled the former Home Economics room, as the children concentrated on what they needed to do to create a meal, without a recipe, using their knowledge and skills learned from the previous classes.
Iron chef is a Food network television show, which was a spin off from the Japanese series that ran in Japan from 1993 – 2002. Iron Chef America entered the scene in 2004. Iron chefs quickly prepare their culinary creations using given ingredients, while feverishly working against the clock.
The children 'Iron chefs' were quite impressive as they showed off their newly learned skills. Eager student leaders from each group presented and explained to the head chef what they had made, how they had made it and what food groups it contained. It was exciting to see such bright and talented children enthusiastically preparing healthy, low-cost, and tasty meals in the Operation Frontline program. The program's hands-on cooking and nutrition education activities really energized the kids participating in the program.
Names of the participants withheld to protect their identities and privacy.
Cooking Matters ® is nationally sponsored by ConAgra Foods Foundation and Walmart.
Share Our Strength’s Cooking Matters, (formerly Operation Frontline)
Hunger in America 2010