I just spent this spectacular May morning in an elementary classroom surrounded by dozens of excited second graders who were busily putting their creative spin on whole-wheat quesadillas so their team could impress the judges enough to win the Recipe for Success Iron Chef competition. This final step earns each of them a coveted “RFS Kid Chef” award.
The judges—the Ft. Bend County ISD superintendent and four colleagues from the district HQ—took their jobs very seriously. But, they couldn’t help grinning as they listened to each team’s earnest presentation and tasted their dish. The kids talked about how they made their recipe special, what they loved to cook at home and their plans for summer gardens and dinner menus. They listed their favorite fruits and veggies—things like kale and Brussels sprouts. They patiently explained to the judges the fractions and multiplication required to adjust recipes to feed more people and wished the judges “Bon Appétit!”
Over the course of a year in our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education ™ program, these youngsters have become knowledgeable cooks, easily familiar with a host of fresh produce that they now love. And that’s why I created Recipe for Success Foundation in 2005—to change the way children eat.
In 2005, there were no smiling, supportive school administrators or generous funders. I was greeted with crossed arms and skepticism when I insisted that I could get kids to freely choose healthier foods. So, my family donated the seed money and time to get the Foundation started and I negotiated with principals at six schools to allow me to roll portable cooking carts into fourth grade classrooms and deliver my program for free. With the help of two-dozen of our city’s finest chefs who volunteered to help, we began turning kids on to the magical adventure of real food.
Since then, we have empowered over 20,000 children in pre-K through fifth grade with the knowledge and skills to support a lifetime of healthy eating. The kids plant the seeds, grow and harvest the produce, transform it into scrumptious dishes, set the table and sit down to share the meal with their classmates. Along the way they learn math, science, language arts and social studies, plus a little teamwork, sharing and etiquette. After just one school year in our program—20 lessons in the garden and kitchen—participating kids are eating an average of 30% more fresh fruits and vegetables and they are willing to try unfamiliar foods.
We designed, tested, measured and codified this engaging, hands-on learning with over 320 lesson plans that link the garden and kitchen along with complementary grade-specific lessons in core curriculum subjects that are aligned to TEKS and Common Core. At the request of the federal administration in 2010, we created, tested and launched an Affiliate Partner program to train and support schools across the country that want to implement our proven-effective Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™. It is now available nationwide and meeting with robust enthusiasm.
No one’s arms are crossed anymore.
Gracie Cavnar is the Founder, President & CEO Recipe for Success Foundation.