Growing minds, growing kids

Squashing obesity: Executive chef Adam Hayes and of Red Stag Grill lead a local squash cooking demonstration for all grades at Glen Arden Elementary. The end result, health and tasty winter squash soup!

Ready to go back to school? So is Appalachian Sustainable Agriculture Project. During the previous school year, ASAP's Growing Minds Farm to School Cooking Program reached nearly 1,400 area students with the help of educators, chefs and community volunteers. Growing Minds works to connect farms and schools and give children positive experiences with healthy foods. Experiences include farm field trips, nutrition education, school gardens, and local food in cafeterias.

Overwhelming interest and community participation in the ASAP’s recent Farm to School Cooking Conference indicates that ASAP’s program is poised to impact even more children when the school year begins. The event was held in late July on the campus of UNCA, in partnership with the North Carolina Center for Health and Wellness, a new state hub for the chealthy-living initiatives that will hopefully help prevent chronic disease among all North Carolinians.

It’s interesting timing: the summer season is a busy one for local chefs, while it’s a season of (much-needed) downtime for teachers — still, more than 100 cooks and educators from across WNC attended the event’s workshops. The goal? To get participants to prepare fresh local foods in the classrooms this school year.

Sessions were led by chefs, educators and otherwise star participants in ASAP’s cooking program last year. Though all of the participants in this program are worth noting, some of the chefs included Liz and Katie Button of Cúrate, Adam Hayes and Brian Knickrehm of the Red Stag Grill, and Becky Tillman from the Stable Café at Biltmore, along with Biltmore’s director of food and beverage, chef Brian Ross.

Topics ranged from “How to Get Kids to Try (and Like!) New Foods” to “Connecting to Curriculum.” During the sessions, Asheville’s top chefs shared their recipes, stories and tips with attendees new to cooking with children. The result? “I’m ready to cook now! Bring on the students!” one teacher-turned-student shared.

“Cooking fresh, whole food is a lost art,” says Dr. David Gardner, executive director of the N.C. Center for Health & Wellness. “This program gives kids all over Asheville and Buncombe County a new set of life skills. We’re grateful for the partnership with ASAP and their efforts to improve the health and well-being of the citizens of this region.”

To be a part of this hands-on, exciting work alongside fellow chefs, farmers, parents and other community members during the 2011-2012 school year, contact Program Coordinator Anna Littman at 236-1282 ext. 113 or anna@asapconnections.org.

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