Chef Partners are necessary to the strength and success of our Cook for Kids program. As students are exposed to new and nutritious foods, the culinary genius and passion for recipes and nutrition by one of our Chef Partners can change a child’s palette and life.
As we all know, the restaurant industry was one of the most deeply impacted during the pandemic and we were unsure what the Chef Partner program would look like once we returned. We wanted to support our many amazing partners but did not want to tax them, given labor shortages, supply chain issues, and the many pivots that our chef friends had to make. We were particularly thrilled, then, to host a handful of partners who made the extraordinary effort to continue to show up and support us through the Chef Partner program.
We would like to highlight our mini but mighty 2021-2022 Chef Partners and some of their contributions that brought Wellness in the Schools back into school buildings in an impactful and customary way. These are not in order of favorites because they all are, but instead in order of school calendar appearance.
Chef Ivan Beacco, owner of Red Inside and a longtime friend and partner of WITS, has been improving school food since 2013. Ivan was our first Chef Partner this year to step up to the plate, joining WITS Chefs Kisha and Shani at West Prep Academy and WITS Chef Cameo at DREAM Charter in Manhattan. Chef Ivan, whose mission is to “inspire everyone to cook”, joined in teaching students WITS BITS and a Butternut Squash Lab. The students (and the WITS team) always revel in Ivan’s demonstrations and energetic and loving approach. His strong Italian accent from coastal northern Trieste transports everyone immediately into his nonna’s kitchen.
Sakara Life joined us last year both as a core donor and a Chef Partner. They have adopted not one, but TWO WITS schools, joining us as volunteers at WITS Labs and WITS BITS. This spring they shared one of the Sakara pillars of health, “Eat Your Water”, with WITS Chef Victoria and students at PS145. They also donated gifts of gratitude to our school communities – providing plant-based lunches to the entire teaching staff and snacks to both teachers and school cooks. They even provided our year-end gift of teas and treats to the hard-working school cooks. The WITS grapevine has been buzzing with reviews on the Sakara granola and clean salads.
Our featured Chef Partner Chopt continues to donate delicious salads for our Family Fitness Fun Nights, Cafe Days, and community events, showing participants how important it is to fuel up with nutritious food while enjoying healthy movement throughout the day. These salads — kale caesar, kebab cobb falafel, grilled chicken, vegan, and more — are accompanied by assorted dressings and bread. This year the Chopt Team joined the WITS staff for a cafeteria takeover in the Bronx, NY at PS70 The Max hosting a tasting of cucumber and their White Balsamic dressing featured on the Harvest Salad from which 10% of sales earned were donated to WITS. Thank you to Chopt – our long-time donor and thought partner – for keeping our events green and gorgeous!
Longtime friend and Chef Partner Chaka Wilson of Hagou joined WITS Chef Ricardo at his Herb and Spice ID Green BITS at CS 55X in the Bronx. On his first visit to WITS programming, he brought spiced sweet potato cubes, seasoned chickpeas, and baby kale salad for students to taste and entertain their taste buds about how spices can be used to season many dishes expanding their palates with Halal meals. The kids really enjoyed trying new flavors!
Chef Anup from Green Top Farms and Farmer Pauleette from Satur Farms joined WITS Chef Cameo for a Cafe Day at PS 110 in Brooklyn. The cafeteria flourished with a bounty of fresh herbs, greens, and broccoli from Satur Farms and a Broccoli Slaw salad from Green Top Farms. Kids devoured the slaw, taking seconds, thirds, and fourths with glee! There’s nothing like a Chef Partner to prove the power (and deliciousness) of plants! Here’s a second-grader proud to have had his third serving:
Students, administration, WITS Chefs, and all of us at WITS appreciate our chef and restaurant partners for bringing so much joy to our school communities with their passion for food and love of education.