WITS Kicks Off The 2011-2012 School Year With Exciting News!Wed 05 Oct 2011
Story by Reana Kovalcik
Started in 2005 by a group of concerned NYC public school parents, Wellness in the Schools (WITS) inspires healthy eating, environmental awareness and fitness as a way of life.
Through meaningful public/private partnerships with school leadership, teachers, chefs, coaches, parents and kids, Wellness in the Schools has three main focus areas:
• Cook for Kids
• Green for Kids
• Coach for Kids
These programs provide healthy foods, sustainable environments, and opportunities for regular play to help kids learn and grow.
Thanks in part to the national recognition WITS has received from school food advocates like First Lady Michelle Obama and Chef Jamie Oliver, we have been growing rapidly. This year we are very excited to welcome several new chef partners and restaurant affiliates to WITS: Neil Kleinberg of Community Food and Juice, Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern, ShunaLydonof Peels andColleen Grapes ofRedcat will join the well seasoned ranks of chef affiliates like Barbuto’s Jonathan Waxman, John Fraser from Dovetail, and WITS Executive Chef, Bill Telepan, of Telepan restaurant. We have expanded our NYC programming to include approximately 17,500 students in 35 schoolsacross 3 boroughs.
A major part of this growth has been in our seasonal tasting classes, the WITS Labs. The Labs are incorporated into the school day for children and offered during the evening for parents. In the WITS Lab for children, we introduce students to seasonal produce and have them prepare and taste the foods in a variety of ways: raw, cooked, and in a recipe. The parent WITS Labs are taught in partnership with NYC food rescue organization, City Harvest, bringing children and their families together to learn about healthy cooking and eating through the use of seasonal produce and inexpensive recipes.
This year we offered our Labs earlier than ever to get kids excited about a new WITS cafeteria item: Flatbread Pizza. We featured Flatbread Pizza as the recipe taught in our September Tomato Lab, and we are proud to say that our team and the WITS Lab students have had a wonderful time this week learning with our chefs, cooking with professional tools donated by OXO, and eating fresh ingredients provided by Whole Foods Market. Our chefs and staff are gearing up and ready for the last few weeks of Tomato Labs, at the end of which they will have met, taught, and cooked with all 17,500 WITS students!
Next year, in partnership with Save the Children, WITS will be expanding beyond the boarders of the big apple and providing programmatic assistance to 12 partner schools in five counties in eastern Kentucky. Our collaborationwith Save the Children’s CHANGE (Creating Healthy, Active and Nurturing Growing-up Environments) program will bring quality nutrition and fitness education to thousands of low-income children across rural Kentucky.
With so much expansion in our programming this year, WITS leadership has been busier than ever. WITS Executive Director Nancy Easton was recently selected as a Jury Member for the 2011 Design Leadership Foundation (DLF) Competition and as a Workshop Leader for Fieldston Middle School’s “Omnivore’s Forum”. At the 2011 DLF Competition this September the brightest designing minds came together to envision a new school through the lens of nutrition, health, and wellness. We saw some truly amazing submissions, and while we can’t let you know who won yet, we encourage you to check out all the submissions of model schools from teams across the country. On October 18th Nancy joins Fieldston Middle School in Riverdale, NY to discuss Michael Pollan’s book Omnivore’s Dilemma, the work of WITS, and how students individually and collectively address "the omnivore's dilemma”.
WITS Executive Chef Bill Telepan has also been staying busy; participating in events throughout the summer to promote healthy eating, including the upcoming Chef Series as part of the EatSleepPlay exhibit at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan this fall. EatSleepPlay is a national, comprehensive, arts & literacy health-based project that uses creative and fun ways to engage children and their parents. As part of the Chef Series, Chef Telepan will help children and their parents learn about healthy eating and cooking through live demonstrations.
It’s already been a very busy school year and classes have only just begun. We look forward to continuing to build relationships in our communities and develop new ones, teaching kids about healthy eating, and engaging students in stimulating physical activities on the playground.
About the author: Reana Kovalcik is the Development Coordinator at Wellness in the Schools. She has a background in public policy and is always seeking to be further engaged in the movement toward better school food locally and better food policies nationally.
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