It all started ten years ago, when I was asked to come to a local elementary school and give a presentation to kindergartners on healthy snacks. I could not imagine what I could create with these little ones that could compete with Happy Meals and Oreos.
I had the idea to have the kids make hummus wraps with fresh veggies that they would prep themselves (with kid-friendly knives we found online). I expected a disaster, but what I found was group after group of interested and adventurous kids who were so starved for fresh food that they dove in head first.
School after school, neighborhood after neighborhood, our little troupe of teachers, magicians and chefs went in and worked with kids to make healthier choices. We left the kids uplifted, but our frustration grew. Politics, budget cuts and an attachment to the status quo stood in the way of kids having access to fresh food. It drove me mad. An assembly with kids eating fresh food and loving it was followed by a deplorable school lunch that was anything but fresh. I could not get over that we feed our children as though they are disposable. Frozen, processed, government surplus food is all we can afford to feed the future of this country? It is a national disgrace.
After years of ranting to no avail and listening to lots of other people talk about the problem, but do nothing, we created The Christina Pirello Health Education Initiative, founded to change the relationship we have with food. More than any other time, our children face an uncertain future, plagued with adult diseases at younger and younger ages.
The goal of CPHEI is to teach people to make healthier choices early in life and help them discover that those choices are not the realm of the educated and the wealthy, but that access to healthy food is like a birthright. Every American man, woman and child has the right to information that can help them live healthy lives.
To that end, CPHEI designed programs for schools and community centers to cut through all the baffling information out there and get to the common sense of eating well. With education as the tool; through farmers' markets, school lunch programs and basic hands-on cooking classes conducted with local and celebrity chefs, people can take their health back.
We made the decision that this organization would work 'in the trenches'...in the classrooms and community centers of our most underserved communities and teach parents and kids that there is another way. There is more to food than cheap, processed calories; that people can have fresh food and alter the course of their future. Parents and kids are excited about fresh food; completely surprised at how delicious it is. Children talk to farmers about where their food comes from; parents light up as their children eat fresh vegetables with gusto. Chefs have never had so much fun, so willing a group to try new things and enjoy them.
The parents and kids we work with are inspired, creative and love discovering that they have a choice. We will continue this work, one child at a time, one school at a time, one neighborhood at a time...one broccoli spear at a time.
Follow Christina Pirello on Twitter: www.twitter.com/christinacooks