Serving Up Culinary Education in Local Schools

Tuesday, Dec 12, 2017
by Melissa Mirota, RDN

Throughout the year, Princeton University chefs and staff visited local schools to share their knowledge and skills with students from pre-K to grade 5.

In December, chefs designed programs as part of the Garden State on Your Plate program. Garden State on Your Plate, run by the Princeton School Gardens Cooperative, brings fresh produce and products from local farms into schools’ cafeterias, where local chefs prepare recipes for tastings for the students, parent volunteers, and school employees.

This year’s session focused on carrots—prepared in a variety of ways to encourage students to try healthy wholesome food while expanding their taste buds and culinary skills.

Students in pre-K to grade 1 learned about numerous ways to cut a carrot and how different cuts affect different recipes. Older students in grades 3 to 5 also explored sustainability and food waste reduction concepts, ensuring that all parts of the carrot can be used.

Rick Piancone, Executive Chef at Rockefeller and Mathey Colleges, gave one example of how the greens of carrots—parts normally discarded—can be used to create an Italian-style pesto sauce.

Whether learning how to craft a flower-shaped carrot or how adding lime to the carrot changes the flavor profile, students were encouraged to explore food outside the cafeteria. They are also building positive food memories with healthy, wholesome ingredients, which can support a healthy relationship with food.

The program sought to educate, engage and empower students to make healthy, sustainable food choices that benefit themselves, their families, and ultimately their communities.

melissa prepping food for studentsIn March, as part of National Nutrition Month, Campus Wellness Dietitian Melissa Mirota visited the local preschool, University Now Day Nursery, with a Charlie Cart. The Charlie Cart Project seeks to integrate food and cooking with lessons in math, English language arts, science and social studies.

Mirota, along with Princeton Assistant Vice President Smitha Haneef and undergraduate students Alice Wistar and Selina Pi, led children in pre-K and kindergarten classes through a hands-on nutrition program where children made a mango and cucumber salad.