kale food scientists

Posted by on Mar 19, 2015 in agriculture, gardens, healthy food, lunch time, nutrition, raising children, school food | 0 comments










I had the recent pleasure of hosting a kale tasting with 2, 3, and 4 year olds at a wonderful daycare that we provide lunch service to.

I purposefully chose a specific day of the week based on the meal that we were serving, with the goal of encouraging the students to expand their ever-growing palates. Kale was being served, so I chose that day!

Starting with a group of 2 year olds, I sat down with them at their lunch table and walked them through the journey of how kale grows from the ground up. We then learned about the different vitamins present in kale and how they benefit our bodies. While much of what I was saying didn’t seem to resonate with them, I knew that once we started tasting they would get much more excited!

The tasting consisted of sample cups filled with kale chips, sautéed kale (that was on the lunch menu), and raw kale. I brought in some dinosaur kale for them to try, and we pondered why it was called that! One student even said that it looked like cabbage!

The 2s all liked the chips better, but overall weren’t super enthused about kale.

Working with the 3s and 4s was a very different experience. They all knew what kale was, and even boasted their gardening expertise amongst their group, especially when it came to kale. They shared stories of how their parents put kale in their smoothies, and how they love working in the garden.

How inspiring!

Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 9.45.34 AMAfter sharing with them the journey of kale from seed to plate, and why it’s good for our bodies, we went on to taste the kale as “food scientists.” Their eyes lit up – “scientists?!” yay!

We first tasted the chips, which students exclaimed was “crinkly,” “crispy,” and my all time favorite “bumpity.” One student even said that it tasted like seaweed.

After tasting the sautéed kale, some said it was “juicy” and “watery.” Then we tasted the raw kale, which not many students liked and reflected on it with words like “bumpy” and “sour.”

Not one of the students didn’t try the kale, since they were all trying it as a team, and even more so as “food scientists” – tasting the kale was a no-brainer for this group.

After telling them that I thought they were brave, they all smiled (with kale in their teeth) and thanked me for coming in to visit. I left them with a fun kale coloring page for them to get creative with.

It was an inspiring way to spend the afternoon, and look forward to hosting more tastings in the future!

Written by Flora McKay, Director of Community & Nutrition

Read More

Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program

Posted by on Jan 14, 2015 in agriculture, families, Food & Farm program, gardens, healthy food, healthy lifestyle, local food, news and happenings, nutrition, raising children, seasonal, sustainability, wellness | 0 comments

10435790_748823861843218_5593928974486830278_nA new approach to healthy weight loss has become very hot. One could even argue, downright “trendsetting.”

Prescribing fruits and vegetables has become a surprising new perspective on the traditional approach to medicine—pills. With the obesity epidemic on the rise, it is inevitable that now is the time for new solutions. 

An innovative non-profit organization called Wholesome Wave has created the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program, or for short, FVRx.

Rather than leaning on western medicine and supplements to combat weight issues, doctors now urge patients to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables—as prescribed. The program is currently underway at two New York Public hospitals—Harlem Hospital in Manhattan and Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx. Through a two year 500,000 grant from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the hospitals were able to test the program on 550 children and their families. Later expanding to the Elmhurst hospital in Queens and Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan, which offered the program to 650 more qualified participants.

The FVRx program includes Nutrition Education, healthy recipes, and something called ‘Health Bucks’. Participants who qualify for the program get tokens. New York and Boston residents get Health Bucks instead, similar to Food Stamps, but are only redeemable for produce at local farmer’s markets. 

Results have proven the program to be effective. After four months 40% of participating children lowered their B.M.I’s (fat composition in their body) and 90% of families had shopped at farmers markets weekly, or several times a month. 

6A 10-year-old girl, Alaijah who was significantly overweight lost 5 pounds in the first year of the program and 8 more pounds the second year just by snacking on fruits and vegetables. Her mother comments, “now Alaijah carries fruits or cut-up vegetables to school. She likes raw carrots, celery and broccoli.” 

This success story is not a stand-alone. Further results show that 97% of children and 96% of their families now ate more fruits and vegetables after being part of the FVRx.

This program touches on two very important factors: food availability and food sustainability. Not only does it provide fresh produce to poor areas—known as food deserts—but it also supports farmers and locally grown foods. The increase in purchases at farmer’s markets has resulted in a 37% increase in the average income for farmers. This has helped to increase their farmland in production and to invest more in farm operations.

Most importantly, implementing FVRx has provided an opportunity for children to interact with the farmers and ask questions, learning about how things are grown and what is in season. 

Read More

campfire stories: celebrating autumn at Butter Beans Fall Harvest Camp

Posted by on Oct 14, 2014 in agriculture, cooking classes, cooking with kids, families, Food & Farm program, gardens, healthy food, local food, lunch time, nutrition, seasonal, seasonal food of the month, sustainability, wellness | 0 comments

Walking past the open doorway of a cozy classroom in Queens last week, one could smell delightful blends of cinnamon and nutmeg, curry and cumin, fresh basil, thyme, and sage. A brief peek inside the classroom door would reveal eight budding chefs expertly transforming raw vegetables into creative culinary delicacies – pumpkin curry, carrot-top pesto, rainbow fried rice, apple pie parfaits… dishes that capture the vibrant flavors of autumn.

This group of 6-10 year olds made up the talented crew of the inaugural Butter Beans Fall Harvest Camp at the United Nations International School (UNIS) of Queens. With culinary prowess, the Fall Harvest campers spent one week (October 6th-10th) caring for the school’s abundant garden and harvesting veggies for their home-cooked lunches.

Each day the group explored new ways of growing, cooking, and eating food in a way that nourishes our bodies, our communities, and the planet. We thought you might want a brief snapshot of what the week brought for our campers, so here are some of the highlights not soon to be forgotten by the campers or counselors of Butter Beans Fall Harvest Camp:


Monday October 6th : Campers sowed seeds in recycled cartons and discovered how to “eat the rainbow” at mealtime, learning the nutritional merits of different colorful foods.


Tuesday, October 7th: On a visit to the historic Queens County Farm Museum, campers took a hayride tour of the farm and picked pumpkins which they later used to make pumpkin butter – from scratch!


Wednesday, October 8th: Campers collected seeds from the UNIS Queens garden to store for next year’s garden and spent an active, rejuvenating morning exercising with yoga instructor Ginger Merritt.


Thursday, October 9th: Campers transplanted herbs from the garden beds to pots in the UNIS Queens greenhouse. With the help of guests from Home Depot’s Community Impact Program, campers also built their own planter boxes to take home!


Friday, October 10th: To celebrate the last day of camp, campers took a trip to the Queens Botanical Garden where they explored “Plants We Eat” through QBG’s bee yard, herb garden, and edible garden beds.

In the kitchen and garden, Fall Harvest Campers discovered the fun of cooking with colorful foods, eating in season, using all the parts of the plant, growing food with sustainability in mind, and supporting our local food communities. We can’t wait to see what these brilliant food and garden experts cook up in the future!

Wishing all the members of the Butter Beans camp family a festive and flavor fall!

Read More

fall harvest camp 2014

Posted by on Sep 30, 2014 in agriculture, cooking with kids, gardens, healthy food, healthy lifestyle, local food, news and happenings, nutrition, seasonal celebrations, sustainability, wellness | 0 comments

10010559644_77cccd5e46_zWe are taking full advantage of the crisp fall season, to step away from our screens and head out to the garden!

We are excited to announce our partnership with the United Nations International School’s Queens campus in leading our very first fall harvest camp!

This week long camp will be filled with a cornucopia of seasonal activities and educational opportunities that focuses on preparing the garden for winter, harvesting crops, cooking lunch to share family-style, while exploring fall flavors and vibrant colors.

Our goals for the camp are for our students to leave with technical culinary skills, as well as a more in-depth knowledge of the agricultural, cultural, and nutritional aspects of the seasonal food they explore at camp.

Join us next week for a guest blog post from Kelly, our Director of Food Education who will fill us in on all the fall excitement!

Happy Fall To All!

Photo courtesy of Robert S. Donovan

Read More

campfire stories: discovering an un-bee-lievable community

Posted by on Jul 25, 2014 in cooking with kids, gardens, healthy food, healthy lifestyle, local food, nutrition, seasonal, summer camp, sustainability, wellness | 0 comments


posing with our new friends at Harlem Grown!

It’s hard to know where to begin with a week as un-bee-lievable as this third week at Butter Beans Food + Garden Summer Camp. Each day left our counselors inspired, our campers smiling broadly, and camp headquarters abuzz with laughter.

Campers delved into Pollinator Week here at Butter Beans with a visit to the “Broadway Bees” at the Residence Inn by Marriott at Central Park hotel (thus the string of bee puns throughout this post). The Broadway Bees live in their hives atop the hotel’s roof on the 67th floor. At 723 feet, this Marriott Residence Inn is the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere! We couldn’t beelieve the view of Central Park as we learned about the bees from Bee Bold Apiaries beekeeper Joe. To top off the day, campers enjoyed a delightful treat of cookies and local milk from the generous hotel team.


woah! that’s a big piece of cookie dough

Two days later campers were in for another sweet treat from our friends at Birdbath Bakery. These budding chefs worked with the Birdbath baker to roll out chocolate cookie dough from the biggest ball of dough any of us had ever seen. After learning about the community that supports this friendly bakery, campers gobbled up their homemade delights and headed to Bedford Cheese Shop to churn their own butter. Is there anything these campers can’t do?

Thursday was a day of inspiration, good food, sharing, and community. Harlem Grown, a non-profit organization that supports a network of neighborhood farms, developed its first summer camp program this year. Naturally we here at Butter Beans were buzzing with excitement when we learned this and a food + garden summer camp summit of sorts was arranged. Our campers took a trip to the Harlem Grown garden yesterday to kick off this camp exchange (the Harlem Grown campers and counselors will visit us next week). The Harlem Grown campers were wonderful hosts –teaching us about their compost system, explaining which veggies were ripe and how to pick them, even sending each Butter Beans camper home with a bag of basil.

all smiles harvesting kale!

all smiles harvesting kale!

Today, back at camp headquarters we enjoyed a mouth-watering Family Friday Potluck meal of spring rolls using the abundance of veggies that Harlem Grown sent us home with. We are so excited to host our new friends next week for lunch at camp headquarters!

Before each meal together at camp, our campers and counselors give thanks to the farmers and the chefs who helped make their food possible. It is with mindfulness of our food and gratitude for the inspiring individuals who grow it that we can build a healthy food system – one that supports nourished bodies, an ecologically-sound environment, and a positive community.

Read More

campfire stories: digging in the dirt

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014 in cooking with kids, food waste, gardens, summer camp, sustainability, wellness | 0 comments

Perusing the rooftop grown veggies at Eagle Street Farm

Perusing the rooftop grown veggies at Eagle Street Farm

Each time we cook here at camp the food scraps from our meal are composted at the nearby Union Square Farmers Market. (That’s of course after campers explore ways of using typically unused food parts- like sautéing beet stems for a taco topping or shredding up leftover zucchini for sweet chocolate chip cookies).

We try to reduce food waste as much as possible but for any compostable food scraps that remain, there are some wriggly creatures that will eat it up. Campers met some composting worms at Eagle Street Rooftop Farm in Brooklyn on Thursday, as well as a friendly flock of chickens. The next day at the farmers market, team members from the Lower East Side Ecology Center talked to Butter Beans campers about how NYC composting works at the greenmarkets, and got to hold some red wiggler worms. What a perfect way to end “worm week” here at camp!

While the rain kept us inside on Tuesday, it certainly did not dampen the fun. Campers spent a relaxing afternoon creating and enjoying the benefits of food-based facial masks, and a brown sugar hand scrub. The next day they spent a sunny afternoon in the park before enjoying some delicious samples of goat milk frozen yogurt at Victory Garden NYC.

enjoying homemade pizza during our family friday potluck!

Enjoying homemade pizza during our family friday potluck!

Both were well-earned treats given the amazing work these campers have put into the kitchen this week. From Sri Lankan coconut curry and roti, to hand-rolled sushi, to market fresh pizza – these little chefs have been busy bees!

Speaking of bees, next week we’re kicking off session 2 of Butter Beans Food & Garden Camp with a visit to the “Broadway Bees” at the Marriott Residence Inn at Central Park. Worm Week has come to a close, and Pollinator Week is about to begin!

Stay tuned for more campfire stories next week…

Read More