On Monday, Second Harvest Food Bank and local chefs served up healthy snacks for about 80 Alice Boucher Elementary students with a side dish of fun at the Children’s Museum of Acadiana.
The students were visiting the museum as part of the food bank’s Cooking Matters program, which teaches children how to make healthy food choices and to prepare quick-and-easy recipes.
“Who likes to eat healthy foods?” asked Ashley Landry, a staff member at the museum who was acting as guide to a group of Boucher kindergarten and preschool students.
All hands in the museum’s café shot up.
“This is actually very healthy and yummy, also,” Cory Bourgeois, a chef at Dark Roux, told the students as he prepared veggie quesadillas using whole-wheat tortillas, zucchini and bell peppers.
Landry asked how many students had ever had zucchini, and only a few hands went in the air.
“Is it good to try things we’ve never had before?” she asked.
“Yes, ma’am,” the small group of students told her.
“Right, because we never know if we like it if we don’t try it,” she encouraged.
Boucher kindergartner Patience Carter approved of the combination of not too much cheese and an ample dose of veggies.
“It smells good,” Patience, 5, said before sampling the filled tortilla. After taking a bite, she nodded her approval.
As part of Monday’s program, staff with Dark Roux, including chefs Bourgeois and Ryan Trahan, shared easy-to-prepare snack ideas with students in separate group sessions. In one session, students learned how to make tasty smoothies using fresh fruit, and in another, students made a snack mix using Chex cereal, raisins, pretzels and a bit of chocolate chips.
One Boucher student asked if the snack mix was still healthy with the chocolate chips.
“There is not a lot of chocolate in there,” said Dark Roux’s Sullivan Zant. “There are carbohydrates, and that’s what will help give you energy.”
Second Harvest’s Brenda Pourciau told students that controlling their portions of food is important.
“A little bit of chocolate is OK, but not a lot,” she said.
The 83 students who attended Monday’s program are among about 150 students who receive ready-to-eat meals and snacks for weekends and holidays through Second Harvest’s Backpack Program. That program helps ensure students continue to receive nutritious meals while they’re away from school and serves about 1,700 children throughout the food bank’s 23-parish service area in south Louisiana.
“On a daily basis, one in five children don’t know where their next meal is coming from,” said Mary-Kay Rath, Second Harvest development manager.
Monday’s visit to the museum was made possible by Dr. Jim Piccione, a local ophthalmologist who wanted the children who benefit from the Backpack Program to have fun while learning about nutrition, Rath said.
Monday’s session offered a snapshot of the Cooking Matters program, which is a weekslong course on nutrition and cooking skills.
A session with Lafayette Parish special education students starts in early January to teach them basic cooking skills, how to read nutritional labels and other skills like comparing prices, said Kate McDonald, nutrition educator with Second Harvest.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.