I was glad to see the article in last week's paper on school lunch. Thank you for putting the spotlight on this issue. Increasing funding for our public-school lunch programs is a critical first step in fighting the obesity epidemic. But as Jamie Oliver has shown in his new reality TV series about obesity rates in a small town in West Virginia, just because kids are given nutritious and delicious food choices doesn't mean they will actually choose them.
One way to get kids to eat good food is to get them to help cook. It is not foolproof, but studies show that kids will be much more likely to taste something if they have helped prepare it. I have been working with the Slow Food Asheville FEAST (Fresh, Easy, Affordable, Sustainable, Tasty) program at Asheville Middle School and have been amazed at the enthusiastic response from the students. Middle School students love to cook it seems! They are interested, engaged and delightfully creative cooks. Our program was recently observed by a group of 40 adults. When the adults walked into the classroom, the students were able to stay on task and be focused. I thought this was amazing, considering I was totally distracted!
We have made and eaten everything from salsa to Swiss chard, cornmeal muffins to egg salad with jalapeños [and] quinoa root vegetable salad. Not every kid tastes everything, but most of them taste something. I think this is also an important step in the fight against obesity. If kids learn to prepare healthy snacks for themselves with fresh ingredients, they may actually be able to beat the odds. To learn more about FEAST, go to slowfoodasheville.org.
— Cathy Cleary