Let’s Move! Brooklyn

Posted by on Oct 22, 2012 in calories, exercise, families, food politics, healthy food, healthy lifestyle, let's move, local food, news and happenings, raising children, wellness | 1 comment

This past July, Catalyst Cares, a charitable organization promoting social mobility in communities throughout NYC that are prone to obesity, launched its second health and wellness campaign called Let’s Move! Brooklyn.

The main goal of Let’s Move! Brooklyn is to try and stamp out the food desert status and lower the obesity rate in Central Brooklyn by three percentage points in three years.

Let’s Move! Brooklyn is part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative. Both campaigns aim to educate children and their parents about nutrition and how to lead active and healthy lifestyles.

Lockie Andrews, the founder of Let’s Move! Brooklyn says, “Our mission is to educate and inspire children and their parents to make healthier dietary, fitness and lifestyle choices through a series of age-appropriate programs, town hall meetings, and advocacy initiatives.” Andrews launched Let’s Move! Brooklyn to help encourage an understanding about eating and living healthier lives through the cooperation of “health and wellness organizations with deep roots in Brooklyn.”

NYC Council Speaker Christine Quinn was a featured guest at the launch event, declaring, “This organization’s mission speaks directly to our city’s obesity epidemic and together we will all fight to find solutions that will improve the health and wellness of all New Yorkers, especially for our residents in low income communities.” Speaker Quinn is an advocate of making fresh produce affordable and convenient for all NYC residents. Recently, she worked with Mayor Michael Bloomberg to implement lower prices at all the city’s farmers markets, offering greater access to nutritious whole foods for low-income New Yorkers.

We think that this is a great start to teach our city’s kids how to better take care of themselves and learn positive habits. With one in three of the country’s adolescents being overweight or obese, this is a dilemma that needs to be addressed now, and other organizations like Wellness in the Schools, City Harvest, Just Food, Edible Schoolyard NYC, and Veggiecation are helping to lead us on the path to correcting this ever-expanding issue.

At Butter Beans, one of our main goals is to get kids thinking about how their food choices affect their lives in the present, but also in the future. We provide them with the tools to create a balanced and delicious meal, made with whole foods, from scratch. Our food education programs illustrate to them how healthy eating is essential to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

For more information, check out this report of the obesity rates in the Bedford-Stuyvesant and Bushwick neighborhoods of Brooklyn and read the Lets Move! Brooklyn press release.

For those who do not live in the Brooklyn area but want to get involved with the Let’s Move! campaign, visit this website dedicated to creating meet-ups across the country. The flexibility that Let’s Move! Meetup offers is deeply encouraging, helping foster the growth of community-based programs that aim to teach residents how to lead healthier lifestyles.

Photos courtesy of kcentv.com and Let’s Move!

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healthier lunches in public schools

Posted by on Oct 15, 2012 in calories, families, fast food, food politics, healthy food, let's move, lunch time, news and happenings, raising children, school food | 1 comment

6235929961_7ab2fe63d7Throughout the country, many public school students are not loving their new school lunches.

Since August, public schools have been mandated to follow the new nutritional guidelines set out by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, providing more fruits and vegetables while limiting levels of fat, sodium, and calories.

Due to the calorie restrictions, protein portions are smaller, food is less cheesy, and the milk is no longer chocolate, but plain and skim.

Before this regulation, lunches had no maximum calorie limit. Now, high school lunches top out at 850 calories, for middle schoolers it’s 700 calories, and elementary students receive just 650 calories.

Many students are upset that despite smaller portions of heavier food items (like meatloaf and chicken nuggets), lunches have gone up in price, at an average of ten cents per lunch. This increase in price is to help mitigate the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as to follow the federal requirement that lunch prices incrementally rise to help pay for their overall fees.

Despite the fact that many NYC public schools have already converted to low fat milk and whole grain breads, the introduction of more fruits and vegetables has led to more waste. The apples, pears, and bags of baby carrots are often seen in the trash, uneaten.

The New York Times’s Student Opinion blog asked NYC public school kids about their new lunches. They wanted to know if these new regulations are a “lost cause” or if lunch has the potential to be both “healthy and tasty?” Reading some of their reactions, it seems like from their standpoint and despite all the media reaction, not too much has changed. Most students say that next to their greasy pizza is a small scoopful of unappetizingly bland vegetables.

One student said, “I think that a healthier school lunch program is a lost cause. It is spending money that we don’t have for a lunch with fruits and vegetables that we just throw away.” Another student declared, “I believe that the food itself isn’t the problem moreover the overall picture of American health.”

Although some students reacted positively to the changes in school lunch, most students weren’t too thrilled about the change or would prefer for their lunch to remain the same. In spite of many students’ preference to avoid eating the fresh fruits and vegetables, research has shown that children must be exposed to a vegetable ten to twelve times until they are willing to eat it on their own.

For more information about students’ reactions across the country, check out an informative article from the New York Times. To learn more, here is an insightful interview with the Department of Agriculture Secretary, Tom Vilsack.

Perhaps the best solutions are time, teacher participation and food education. With time, we will hopefully see students trying new foods, and liking foods they never though they would. In turn, teachers can act as role models, as they do in the classroom, by creating balanced plates of their own for students to see, and with food education, children will learn why it’s important to eat well, especially at lunchtime, and change will happen, slowly but surely.

Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks

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green gardens growing in East London schoolyard

Posted by on Sep 21, 2012 in agriculture, cooking with kids, Food & Farm program, Food for thought, food politics, gardens, healthy food, let's move, local food, lunch time, news and happenings, school food, seasonal | 0 comments

Sixteen years ago, Alice Waters partnered with the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, and their school community to start an edible garden, whose purpose was to create an experiential learning space that delved into various school subjects. Through strong community support, Alice Waters spearheaded the transformation of a concrete playground into an edible schoolyard, and in turn started a local food revolution.Since then, many schools have followed suit, encouraging the growth of school gardens, greenhouses, cooking programs and gardening initiatives all across the country, and world.

Across the pond, in an East London school community, shoots and similar ideas are sprouting. Spearheaded by parent, Cassie Liversidge, the Chisenhale Primary School has grown it’s very own edible playground.

The playground boasts a bounty of fresh fruits, veggies, and even wheat, which they mill in class, and transform into fresh loaves of bread, in collaboration with the “lessons in loaf” curriculum. Some of their local produce is used in their cafeteria, so that the children can eat their very own harvested food at lunchtime.

The children all have a hand in planting, weeding, harvesting and even selling! By smartly partnering with the Royal Horticultural Society Campaign for School Gardening, School Food Matters, and Waitrose, they are bringing the community together all in the name of good food education.

For more information on the Chisenhale Primary School edible playground, check out the Edible Schoolyard’s website here. To hear Cassie speak about the transformation she helped spark, watch her inspiring video here, friend her facebook page, and follow her on twitter.

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green gardens growing in East London schoolyard

Posted by on Sep 21, 2012 in agriculture, cooking with kids, Food & Farm program, Food for thought, food politics, gardens, healthy food, let's move, local food, lunch time, news and happenings, school food, seasonal | 0 comments

Sixteen years ago, Alice Waters partnered with the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School, and their school community to start an edible garden, whose purpose was to create an experiential learning space that delved into various school subjects. Through strong community support, Alice Waters spearheaded the transformation of a concrete playground into an edible schoolyard, and in turn started a local food revolution.Since then, many schools have followed suit, encouraging the growth of school gardens, greenhouses, cooking programs and gardening initiatives all across the country, and world.

Across the pond, in an East London school community, shoots and similar ideas are sprouting. Spearheaded by parent, Cassie Liversidge, the Chisenhale Primary School has grown it’s very own edible playground.

The playground boasts a bounty of fresh fruits, veggies, and even wheat, which they mill in class, and transform into fresh loaves of bread, in collaboration with the “lessons in loaf” curriculum. Some of their local produce is used in their cafeteria, so that the children can eat their very own harvested food at lunchtime.

The children all have a hand in planting, weeding, harvesting and even selling! By smartly partnering with the Royal Horticultural Society Campaign for School Gardening, School Food Matters, and Waitrose, they are bringing the community together all in the name of good food education.

For more information on the Chisenhale Primary School edible playground, check out the Edible Schoolyard’s website here. To hear Cassie speak about the transformation she helped spark, watch her inspiring video here, friend her facebook page, and follow her on twitter.

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Conventional or Organic?

Posted by on Sep 19, 2012 in cooking with kids, families, Food for thought, food politics, healthy food, let's move, local food, news and happenings, raising children, school food, seasonal | 1 comment

8099419727_c31c7bbe2cTwo weeks ago, Stanford University published their controversial study in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluding that organic produce has no added nutritional health benefits over their conventionally grown counterparts.

However, one of the few distinguishable advantages of organic fruits and vegetables is that there is a lower risk of pesticide exposure. Despite this, the conventionally grown produce that was reviewed contained pesticide levels within the safety limits set by the EPA.

It was noted in the study that children are especially vulnerable when it comes to pesticide exposure, since they are maturing and their immune systems are more sensitive. Because childhood is a critical period in human development, exposure to pesticides during that time may cause adverse effects.

According to the FDA, foods labeled “organic” must be certified under the National Organic Program. They must also be grown and processed using organic farming methods that promote biodiversity and recycling. Synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, bioengineered genes, antibiotics, hormones, and radiation cannot be used. For more information on organic food labels, click here. To read about the challenges small farmers face should they chose to become certified organic, click here.

In the study it was found that organic produce has a 30 percent lower risk of containing detectable pesticide levels. The Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of the twelve foods containing the highest levels of pesticides, calling them the Dirty Dozen (with apples, celery, and bell peppers at the head of list). The Clean 15 on the other hand are the foods lowest in pesticides, with onions, sweet corn, and pineapple as the top three least contaminated. Here is their methodology.

What this study did not focus on, was the nutritional, environmental and community value of locally grown produce. Eating local produce offers various health benefits for our bodies, and our planet. According to the Northeast Organic Farming Association of New York, the top five reasons to eat locally are:

  1. taste
  2. environmental concern
  3. community
  4. variety
  5. health

Our food now travels an average of 1,500 miles before ending up on our plates.

At Butter Beans, we have created close relationships with local food purveyors, purchasing as much of our produce as possible from nearby farmers to provide the freshest and most nutritious food to our students. A list of our suppliers can be found here.

Despite the emphatic reactions to this food study, it’s a step in the right direction for the quality and safety of the food we eat daily. This sort of dialogue shows that our communities are taking more interest in different methods of food production, which trickles down to how we feed our families. It is of utmost importance that we nourish ourselves everyday with fresh fruits and vegetables.

First Lady, Michelle Obama sums it up pretty well: “We can make a commitment to promote vegetables and fruits and whole grains on every part of every menu. We can make portion sizes smaller and emphasize quality over quantity. And we can help create a culture — imagine this — where our kids ask for healthy options instead of resisting them.”

Photo courtesy of ePsos.de

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A quote to inspire your weekend

Posted by on Aug 17, 2012 in cooking with kids, families, gardens, healthy food, let's move, local food, raising children, seasonal, seasonal celebrations | 0 comments

531299263_35e4ff0eca“I believe that every child in this world needs to have a relationship with the land…to know how to nourish themselves…and to know how to connect with the community around them.” – Alice Waters

Wishing you all a weekend filled with nourishing foods, community, family and happiness.

Photo courtesy of David Sifry

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