SF Bay Pre-School Food Revolution

SF Bay Pre-School Food Revolution

Thu 03 Nov 2011

Story by Shane Valentine

I am Shane Valentine, author of The Baby Cuisine Cookbook, Chef Instructor for Whole Foods Markets, Speaker, Activist, father of 3 and SF Bay Pre-School Food Revolution Group founder.

I started this Food Revolution journey 4 years ago without even knowing I was joining the food movement, never mind a revolution of any kind. I was simply on a quest to feed my daughter real food.

Yes, I went culinary school (but did not pursue cooking as a career), but they never taught ‘baby food’ as a class. I was scared about feeding my six-month-old baby, literally. So after buying some baby food cookbooks I was left uninspired. They all seemed somewhat bland and boring and I had an intuitive sense that I should feed Alina what my wife and I would eat for dinner, to share the same meal.

At that time, Chantal was working for a foreign exchange program, so we had access to a lot of families in a lot of countries around the world. So we asked a few families in Thailand, “What do you feed your babies?” and they said “They eat what we eat.” I asked, “If you make Beef Satay, is that what baby will eat?” and their response was yes. Then we asked a couple of families in India the same question and they responded the same way as the Thai families – “They eat what we eat, curries and all.” With that, I ditched my corporate gig and decided to do research and write The Baby Cuisine Cookbook.

“Daddy I want Goldfish”

Fast forward…Alina goes to preschool. One day she came home saying “Daddy I want Goldfish.” At first I thought she wanted to go to the local pet store, but no-no, she meant the junk-food snack that stains your fingers orange. It never dawned on me to ask what snacks they would serve in preschool; I just assumed that preschoolers would only eat the best.

I quickly learned that this type of snack foods and lunches are what is served in the overwhelming majority of childcare centers. So I decided to do something about it, because if I waited for Jamie Oliver to take it on, I would be waiting a long time as there is PLENTY to do with school-aged children (no disrespect Jamie just the truth – I got your back). I started straight away to teach preschoolers where food comes from and that they CAN cook and do the things that go with it like prep, washing, etc. When they are involved in the cooking process they will eat anything….yes preschoolers, and before they even get to first grade!

Why wait for first grade?

Around this time, I was in meetings with Dr. Alan Greene to discuss collaborating on my next book. Dr. Greene, one of America’s leading pediatricians, author of Feeding Baby Green and Raising Baby Green, speaker and founder of the WhiteOut Movement - instrumental in changing the way babies are fed.

I shared my concerns about preschool food, or lack thereof, with Dr. Greene and he whole heartily agreed. The preschool years are a critical window when social eating is established. We decided to join forces and take on preschool food, nutrition and health – an area that is often overlooked.

SF Bay Preschool Food Revolution Group

We started the SF Bay Preschool Food Rev page so that we can start to gain awareness in the Bay Area, but we are really focused on taking this nationwide and building the momentum to do so.

Here is a timeline of success we have had with preschoolers, based on one hour per week with them:

Week 1 – only 25% participation - the rest wanted to play
Week 3 (or 2 hours later) – 100% participation sitting and waiting to start
Week 6 (or 3 hours later) – all the kids prepared AND ate Kale Chips!! (video to prove it)
Week 8 (or 2 hours later) – the kids preferred plain yogurt to flavored (sugar-loaded) yogurt and so on.

These preschoolers have prepared and eaten (no joke here):

Sheppard’s Pie, Gyro and Tzatziki, Hummus, Veggie lasagna, Tandoori Paneer, Veggie Lettuce Wraps and more.

Remember these are 3 and 4 year olds. Mind you I have been told repeatedly that the kids will never eat this stuff.

Other successes include Farm Day – with help from our local Whole Foods Market in Novato, CA, we took the preschoolers out to a real Grass-fed cattle ranch to see how cows are supposed to be raised and taken care of. As you can see by the pictures, for 90 minutes the curious cows and the curious kids shared the same space without incident. It really was magical. The kids received lessons from myself, Dr. Greene and the rancher/owner. The main lesson on this trip was how animals are supposed to be treated and raised. It was a day that we all will never forget. Video: Preschoolers Visit a Local Ranch To Learn Where Food Comes From.

I have since partnered with the American Heart Association and was asked to join the AHA Bay Area 2020 Task Force. As part of this initiative, the Task Force has added afterschool cooking classes for preschoolers as a project!

Eat Well and Eat Together!

About the author: Shane Valentine is the author of The Baby Cuisine Cookbook, Chef Instructor for Whole Foods Markets, Speaker, Activist and father of 3 (4 yr daughter {cover girl} and 20 month old twin boys) and SF Bay Pre-School Food Revolution Group founder.


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