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Chef Visits for Earth Month

April 29, 2019
By: Stephanie Loui

April is Earth Month and to celebrate Hawaiʻi’s local agricultural abundance, Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation's ‘ĀINA in Schools program partners with community chefs to bring healthy, “Close to the Source” recipes into the classroom all month long.

From well-known names like Ed Kenney and Mark Noguchi to up and coming chefs passionate about local food, ‘ĀINA pairs schools with healthy food access and agricultural literacy to encourage healthy eating. Chefs visit ‘ĀINA schools in their communities, often seeing 1-2 grade levels in a day to share about what they do, why they do it, and how students can participate in making culinary magic.

Some chefs will even source produce from the school garden, whether it’s a handful of basil or enough ‘ulu to feed the school. In demonstrating recipes that incorporate school garden produce, chefs help students to see and taste the value of the fruits and vegetables growing in their gardens. While recipes vary in complexity, seasonality and taste, common themes at ‘ĀINA Chef Visits include:

Keeping it “Close to the Source”
A key benefit of teaching students how to cook is that it can show them how to work with real ingredients. Rather than reaching for processed, packaged foods with high salt, sugar, and fat, as well as artificial ingredients and colors, students learn to recognize and appreciate natural flavors and ingredients. They are also often more inclined to eat a dish when they know the ingredients and the effort behind preparing them.

Finding the Right Tools for the Job
Teaching kids about safe tool handling in the kitchen can boost independent cooking abilities and also reduce fears around kids in the kitchen. Some chefs will share about the safety practices in their restaurant kitchens, or introduce students to fun and friendly gadgets that help reduce risk and provide smart shortcuts. Skills like safe knife handling and tool use are key to successful future home cooks.

Trying Something New!
Chef Visits are an opportunity for students to try something they may not have tried before or to interact with a familiar food in a new way. With adaptations like ʻulu (breadfruit) in place of chickpeas in a delicious hummus, or garden-fresh pesto with carrot tops from the ʻĀINA Good Buddy garden, students often exclaim: “I didnʻt know I liked this!” when it comes time to taste their culinary creations. Increasing kitchen literacy is not only important from a practical standpoint, but it can also present the opportunity to help shape life-long healthy eaters, able to make informed decisions about what and how they eat.

For teachers and chefs interested in tips for classroom chef visits check out the ʻĀINA Chef Visit Resource Guide.

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