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real food for kids

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*Pictures show foods prepared by children during a cooking lesson at Escola Wilma Kövesi in São Paulo in December 2016.

Our kids attend this great public elementary school, which also has an excellent PTA. Last night during a PTA meeting I was so excited to learn about Real Food for Kids, a local nonprofit that advocates for healthier food for kids, that I had to share it with you. Timing could not be more perfect for me, since I just did a little internship with my former cooking school while vacationing in Brazil assisting them with cooking lessons for children and the subject has been on my radar for months (more on that soon, but check out the pictures of the great meals they prepared!).

Real Food for Kids started as a small group of concerned parents over 6 years ago. It is now a nationally recognized advocacy group supported by local restauranteurs, farmers, educators and other community members who passionately advocate for whole fresh food for our schools.

Together with the new Director of Food and Nutrition Services for Fairfax County Public Schools, Rodney Taylor, Real Food for Kids is making real progress. They are currently implementing salad bars that will be prominently displayed in school cafeterias which can be chosen as a full meal or supplement to a hot entrée. Our school is scheduled to receive this big change for the next school year and I look forward to seeing how it may affect how our kids eat at school when given lots of healthy food options. Their goal is to gradually be able to source local and seasonal food to schools and train the cafeteria staff on how to prepare them.

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Quick tip for veggies: serve them in kebabs or let the children prepare their own! Kids are a lot more likely to eat their food if they have fun or if they have choices.

Real Food For Kids also creates and supports programs that educate students and families on making healthier lifestyle choices through engaging activities such as culinary challenges, taste workshops for teens, food day celebrations, recipe contests, educational video series about healthy habits and much more.

They are working hard for our children and need support. They need volunteers, interns, donations and collaboration. Not only to work directly with them, but to think how we feed our kids (and teachers) during school hours when we are the ones providing lunches and treats for celebrations and snacks.

I believe in balance. I love baking and occasionally indulging in delicious sweet treats and we try to teach our kids that eating healthy is the norm and that treats are for special occasions and parties, not to eat on a regular basis. I do not always succeed, of course. But when participating in school gatherings, I try to contribute with healthy savory items and fruits, or treats that are smaller or healthier such as baking with whole wheat flour, raw sugar and apple sauce, using less oil and refined flour and sugar.

I’ve had this conversation about school lunches and treats and how they affect our children’s health and behavior many times with my friends, but often without knowing how to effect change. Now I am hopeful that we are all getting on the same page – parents, administrators and hopefully and slowly, students. Feeding our kids healthy food is a lot of work at home and we don’t want this work to be undone at school.

Have you faced the same challenges in your kids’ schools?  Have you seen any changes that have improved the foods that are made available to your kids, or lessened the amount of treats your kids receive regularly? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

For more information about Real Foods for Kids, to contact them or to make a tax-deductible donation, check out their website www.realfoodforkids.org.

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