Chef in school kitchens helps students eat healthier

With one in three U.S. children considered overweight or obese, food served in schools is being scrutinized closely. For many low-income students who eat free breakfasts and lunches at school, the cafeteria offerings may represent more than half of their daily calories.

The Chef Initiative, featured July 18, 2012 in a article, “Healthier School Lunch?,” was a two-year pilot program which brought a professional chef into the school kitchens of several Boston public schools. The initiative was developed by Project Bread, a nonprofit anti-hunger organization; Boston Public Schools (BPS); the Boston Public Health Commission; and Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).

The researchers, headed by lead author Juliana Cohen, research fellow in the Department of Nutrition at HSPH, and senior author Eric Rimm, associate professor in the departments of epidemiology and nutrition at HSPH, found when cafeteria staffs are trained by a chef in ways to create meals that are both nutritious and tasty, students eat more whole grains, vegetables, and other healthy foods.

“One of the big messages that we found is that it does take kids a little while to acclimate,” said Cohen said in a WGBH radio interview July 17. “Research often finds that kids need to taste something ten times before it becomes familiar and something that they really like. So these changes don’t happen overnight.”

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Chef in School Kitchen Boosts Healthy Eating (HSPH feature)

The Obesity Prevention Source: Childhood Obesity