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Restaurants and Chefs Go Back To School

It’s back to school—and students will soon notice professional chefs and restaurant companies in their school’s food programs. Chefs and restaurants alike have observed that the rate of childhood obesity in the country is increasingly mounting, and they have resolved to get involved. Among the many contributions that many restaurants and their chef’s have been actively engaged in are:

Wellness in the Schools

Wellness in the Schools initiative encourages healthy eating, environmental consciousness and fitness as a lifestyle for children in New York City’s community and public schools. It was able to develop hands-on programs like Cook for Kids, where volunteers and sponsors prepare fresh meals from scratch, hoping to educate families about the value of eating unprocessed, whole foods.

“We realize the degree of responsibility that restaurants have in foreseeing what our children’s food will be in 20 years,” said the chief executive of Chop’t Creative Salad (in New York), Nick Marsh. “We have the power to shape what the future of the industry will be.”

Chop’t is one of the pioneering sponsors of the Wellness in the Schools group which is based in New York City. Chop’t makes an annual contribution of $25,000 to the school program, working to help in the evolution of school food. The company also leads a number of educational conferences in New York City’s school systems.

Other than its sponsorship of Wellness in Schools, Chop’t has also adopted a Harlem public school this year, giving out equipments and healthy recipes. The restaurant chain created salad sandwich recipes that became part of the school’s lunch rotation and initiated school “café days,” which seeks to increase the school community’s awareness of culinary field careers, new menu items and ingredients.

Chefs Move To Schools

The Chefs Move to Schools program taps into the creative energies of chefs in America and their vast knowledge about food to help make sure that the country’s next generation grows up healthy. It gives chefs, in their smart coats and outstanding chef pants, the opportunity to help school canteens come up with healthier school menus, and at the same time engage and educate the whole school community along the way.

White House’s assistant chef Sam Kass, who also acts as senior policy adviser for healthful food programs, discussed the Obama administration’s Chefs Move to Schools and Let’s Move Campaign at the American Culinary Foundation’s recently held national convention. The ACF is also one of the partners of Chefs Move.

Kass revealed that First Lady Michelle Obama actively supports the programs after national statistics show that one of three children in the country is considered obese, that the cost of treating obesity has already reached $150 billion per year, and that the disease is the number one reason for ineligibility for military service. She launched Let’s Move, a comprehensive program committed to solve the challenge of the young generation’s obesity problems.

Chef Paul O’Toole volunteered last September 2010 at Urban Promise, a charter school based in Wilmington, Del. An active member of the ACF and Deerfield Golf and Tennis Club’s Executive Chef, he also hosts demonstrations at the school every month. A lot of other chefs, in their coats and chef pants, do it, too.

Healthy Kids Lunch Program

Restaurants, like Tampa, Fla.-based EVOS, have come up with a healthy kid’s lunch program which offers reasonably priced and healthful food choices to families who has children at school. “The success of our lunch program proves how much parents attach importance to the opportunity they are given in playing an active role in providing nutritious food for their children, not just at home but also at school,” said Jackie Macaluso, EVOS’ director of marketing.

That being said, we can see that restaurants do have a massive audience in schools. Technomic has estimated that the country’s school system (elementary, secondary) educates over 56 million students, and is expected to grow to 60 million by 2017. With this, the market for nutrition education is indeed enormous, prompting the food service industry to give focus on it and at the same time do something relevant for the community they are in.