The students at PS 154 in Harlem are playing with their food— and SchoolFood Chef Sid Grabill couldn't be happier.
He is part of the team that makes up SchoolFood Plus, a project that is part of a three million dollar grant funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. It's a collaborative, multi-agency initiative to lead change in New York City school meal programs by providing school based programming to educate students and adults about food, nutrition and health. Its goal is to improve the eating habits, health and academic performance of NYC public school children, while strengthening the New York State agricultural economy.
A typical School Food Plus scene might have kindergarten students learning about collard green leaves in a CookShop classroom lesson as parents look on, learning about how to cook healthier foods. But school-based programming is only part of the initiative.The three-part program also includes institutional change and coalition building.
SchoolFood Plus debuted three years ago, when Regional Chef Sid Grabill and Project Manager Billy Dougherty developed a series of recipes around plant-based components. After training School-Food chefs and managers, NYSF implemented the program in 22 schools in areas of NYC with high rates of obesity and Type 2 Diabetes—Central Harlem, East Bronx and Central Brooklyn. Since then, SchoolFood Plus has branched out to other areas of the city. Today it is active in more than 80 schools and there are plans to expand to 101 schools by the end of the year.
The program also supports the procurement of products from New York State farms; the enchancement of nutrition standards; and creation and delivery of food service staff training. Its activities include CookShop Programming, an interactive food expoloration and cooking curriculum for elementary school children and adults; farm-based food education; school-based wellness councils; and school-wide promotion of plant-based recipes.
The coalition also includes: EATWISE—a youth program that trains high school students to be nutrition advocates; New York City SchoolFood Plus Coalition; and the National Urban SchoolFood Network.