Friday night, June 1, Menus for Healthy Kids was invited to participate in Hyde Park School District’s North Park Elementary “Family Fun Fitness Night." Parents and students are invited back on campus from 6:30 to 8:30 for activities centered on healthful practices. There were five stations that families rotated through. Four were centered on physical activities and wellness topics. Families were asked to do exercises, take part in races, and record their pulse rates. The fifth was devoted to the Menu for Healthy Kids program. Our mission was to offer instruction on the preparation of a healthy snack. Once the families had visited all five of the stations, they returned to the cafeteria to partake sample the healthy offering they had just seen being made.
Christina, our newest culinary extern, was there to help me with the presentation. We had decided on a demo instead of a hands-on experience, since there would be lots of families cycling through. We thought it best to have our hands the only ones involved. That way we could maintain a certain level of hygiene without families wondering whose hands had just been touching their food.
Our snack was a cold Asian Noodle Salad made with whole wheat pasta. Christina demonstrated easy ways to cut some of the more difficult veggies. She turned carrots into match sticks, showed how to easily remove the seed pod from peppers, and dispatched a monstrous head of cabbage into wedges that were then easy to shred. In addition to carrots, peppers, and cabbage, we also had peas, corn, red onions, and fresh broccoli to toss together with the pasta.
Next, we made a creamy sauce to dress the salad. Our original recipe called for peanut butter but with peanut allergies at schools such a serious concern, I showed off a little substitution trick. Instead of peanut butter, we used canned white beans (rinsed to control sodium intake) and pureed them along with orange juice, soy sauce (reduced-sodium) sesame oil, garlic, and ginger. The beans provided the creaminess we would have gotten from the peanut butter and at the same time, it added additional protein and fiber to the dish.
All in all, it was a great evening of a district coming together and encouraging healthful habits in their youth. I commend Hyde Park for reaching out to their parents and sharing with them the importance of healthy lifestyles. Not only does it set a great example for the parents, it allows the parents to be shining examples for their children. At the end of the evening, while the entire group sat together to enjoy their healthy snack, there was a tremendous sense of community. Families chatted, children ran around playing tag, and the room filled with a happy-sounding din. In a fast-paced, technology-filled world, this expereience brought me back to when I was a child. Things were much simpler and communities came together often. It was a very comforting feeling, and I look forward to the next opportunity to participate in my community.