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Preconception Peer Educators (PPEs) Wearing a Chef Hat...Literally

Chicago sunlight greeted OMH preconception peer educators Tuesday morning, as the 20 students were dispersed throughout the city to help welcome chefs into the classroom.

The program, part of the Chefs Move to Schools campaign, allows professional chefs to go into Chicago classrooms to prepare simple, healthy and nutritious meals for children, while exposing them to new fruits and veggies and fun food facts.

Chef Lovely, executive chef of Lovely Eats, brought her arsenal of culinary knowledge and her love of working with children to Mark Sheridan Math & Science Academy. Exit Disclaimer First she got children moving, running in place as they shook the wooden floorboards of room 208. Then, armed with recipes for a chicken lettuce wrap, filled with baked chicken breast and sliced vegetables, and fruit skewers in yogurt sauce, the chef demonstrated the simplicity of each recipe while explaining how the ingredients impact growing bodies.

Even Chef Lovely admitted to enjoying heavier foods occasionally, but promoted choosing fruit options more often than fries.

"Mixing the culinary with working with children was a natural thing for me," said Lovely, now in her second year of the program. "I originally found out about it last year at Common Threads. I said 'wow, this is already what I'm doing, but on a bigger level. It would allow me to network with other chefs and the CPS community.'"

While Lovely demonstrated the preparation of her choice meals, PPEs Callie Womble and Jacqueline Lemus cooked up mass meals in their makeshift kitchen in the back of the classroom and Sheridan Principal John O'Connell pitched in to help serve the kid-friendly creation, playing waiter and fixing students' chef hats.

Meals were greeted by outbursts of "delicious" and "can we get seconds?"

"I didn't really know what to expect," Lemus said of the program. "I think the program they're doing is really good--we used to get French fries for breakfast. It's really important that this is going on and I'm glad we're a part of this."

Womble agrees.

"Especially in America, we talk about all our advances in technology, we talk about how we're going to live so long", Womble said, "but no, we're not because we keep eating and we keep eating the wrong things."

Programs like Chefs in the Classroom help encourage healthier options, and although concern has been voiced about the merit of such events, O'Connell puts it simply:

"Definitely I support any initiative that's going to benefit children at Mark Sheridan Academy," O'Connell said.

The Day's Highlights

  • Sixty chefs are deployed to 60 Chicago schools.
  • PPEs assist chefs prepare and serve meals and engage students.
  • Chicago principals are encouraged to Go for the Gold during the Chef in the Classroom luncheon.

Monday Report
A Jumpy Start to Heroes for Healthy Schools Week

Chef in the Classroom Exit Disclaimer
Heroes for Healthy Schools Week: Chef in the Classroom Day! Exit Disclaimer

4/7/2011 10:44:00 AM