When I was a young chef just out of culinary school, I volunteered and worked for Wellness in the Schools (WITS) in New York City. It’s where I learned a love for how to tie healthier school lunches with the importance of teaching kids how to engage with these new foods without fear and loads of joy. You may not believe it, but in just 50 minutes, a Kale Cooking Lab can change a kid’s relationship with food forever. I’ve seen it firsthand.
The discussion around school food can get complicated really fast. There is policy involved (Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act), the politics and influence of the big food industry, the USDA, and certainly there’s the skills and will challenge of going from a heat-and-serve food culture to actually preparing whole, locally grown foods from scratch for kids. Often as adults, when we do make changes in school food, we generously pat ourselves on the back but forget that we’ve only tackled half the battle. Now, we must educate kids on how to eat that new healthier food so it doesn’t end up in the trash.
Yes, you can improve the food served in schools, but if you don’t teach children how to engage with these new foods with all of their senses and reduce the fear of trying new foods, there is a huge disconnect between what’s served and what’s eaten. I saw this first hand while working for Wellness in the Schools. Fast forward 10 years later, and WITS is bringing healthy food and fitness to 40,000 students across 75 public schools, cafeterias, classrooms, and recess yards. Clearly, there’s so much work to be done.
What I have found I love doing best is not working in the cafeteria but in the classroom. No matter what happens on the school food front, I know that when I teach a child how to cook a simple recipe and engage with farm fresh, local vegetables and fruits with all of their senses, I’ve planted a seed that will grow with them for life. That’s why I’m SO excited about this new partnership with WITS and my partner in the Novato California Unified School District, Miguel Villarreal, our pilot school’s principal and PTA, and our presenting sponsor, Whole Foods Market. Next week, we’re piloting the WITS Labs through our Joyful 12 School Pilot at Lu Sutton Elementary–350 kids will learn how to make this delicious salad and then we’ll feature it on the salad bar the following week on October 7th, National Kale Day.
I hope you’ll try this easy and delicious recipe with your kids in your home kitchens. I’m betting you’ll find some kale converts in your household after they get to help you grate the ginger, rip the kale from its stems, squeeze the fresh orange juice, and toss the beautiful strands of greens in their honey, orange and ginger soy dressing.
- 2 bunches lacinato (dinosaur) kale,
- washed, de-stemmed, and chopped thin
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- Juice from 1/2 orange
- 1 Tbsp soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Combine vinegar, juice, soy sauce, honey, and ginger in a large bowl and whisk.
- Add oil slowly while whisking so that a thick consistency is achieved.
- Combine dressing with kale, a bit at a time, and mix thoroughly until salad is completely coated
- with dressing. You may not need to use all of the dressing.
- Using your hands, massage the kale with the dressing until covered