Zucchini carrot cake tastings, Zumba classes, and sprouting greens — this school year has been extra special with the support of our amazing Chef and Fitness Partners. Read on for stories of a few of this school year’s special partnerships.
Wellness in the Schools hosted a dozen Family Fitness Fun Nights this year, evenings at a school for students and their families with exciting fitness classes led by WITS Coaches and WITS Fitness Partners and a complimentary healthy dinner. PS 70X’s Family Fitness Fun Night this February stands out as a favorite: celebrating wellness, Black History Month, and the power of community, students and families alike were abuzz with excitement and energy. From high-five push-ups with WITS Coach and Program Manager Errol to yoga and Zumba classes, it was an incredible evening with a huge impact on both participants and instructors. Zumba instructor Brianna remarked, “I am honored to have been a part of this. Thank you again for such a great event.” Yogi Beans has also been a core Fitness Partner to Wellness in the Schools at these events, with fabulous yoga instructors who bring a peaceful centering of mind and body to the school room each evening.
Chop’t deserves an extra-special shoutout for their participation at these Family Fitness Fun Nights, as the evening is not complete until dinner is served! Donated by Chop’t, students, and families enjoy healthy salads to nourish and refuel after fitness activities. The salads, from Kale Caesar to Kebab Cobb Falafel, have been a huge hit — as are the dressings to pair. The Chop’t team made the salad experience even more fabulous by hosting a Cafe Day at PS 70X the next month, where students could taste ranch and honey mustard dressings with cucumbers and pita chips to taste. Thank you, Chop’t, for encouraging salad bar participation and helping us feed kids nourishing food.
The Chef Partner excitement continues with Anup Joshi of Green Top Farms. In addition to being on our Chef Council, Chef Anup is an amazing presence at our Cafe Days. Anup Joshi – as well as being on our Chef Council (link), Anup also is an amazing Chef Partner of our Cafe Days. This winter, at a Cafe Day at PS 110K, Chef Anup brought a Caesar Salad recipe tasting to the students and taught them about the healthy ingredients in the salad like lemon juice, garlic, and a base of leafy greens. Everyone loved it! Chef Anup then brought his Cafe Day magic to PS 160Q with a Purple Sweet Potatoes with Healing Spices recipe from Green Top Farms. The tastings paired with education on all of the purple sweet potatoes’ vitamins and how they support our bodies.
Blue Apron brought their Cafe Day to PS 95X/AmPark and PS 294/311X in the Bronx. Two wonderful days of Cafe Days, with a fabulous recipe! The Zucchini Carrot Cake with Yogurt Frosting, vegan version included, was a colorful, tasty sampling for hundreds of students. Principals, teachers, and students alike flocked to the table for this nutrient-rich cake.
This year, Chef Andy Kitko of the restaurant Oceans became our new Chef Partner to PS 3M. In May, with summer approaching and zucchini coming into season, Chef Andy made Kolokithokeftedes, a Greek “zucchini meatballs” dish. Students loved it and asked for seconds and thirds! Bringing a new culture and flavors to students was a big success, and we can’t wait to partner with Chef Andy for more Cafe Day experiences in the coming year.
Aaron Brooks, our Chef Partner in Florida, put a twist on the Cafe Days to host a special event for school teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week this May at Charles R. Drew K–8 Center in Miami-Dade County. Together with WITS Chefs Leonor and Sara, Chef Aaron put together an amazing garden-to-table culinary experience, harvesting greens and herbs from the school’s garden to make Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho, Avocado Basil Crema, Adobo Chicken with Quinoa, and Corn Salad Chimichurri.
David Enteman of North River Dry Goods brought some plant-based snacks to Landmark Elementary’s Family Fitness Fun Night in Brooklyn. As a proud public school parent, his passion project became creating a snack for his son that wasn’t highly processed. The resulting snacks, crunchy yellow split peas, come in a range of spiced flavors that students and parents could taste at this event. It was exciting to see kids trying this plant-based snack and either trying yellow split peas for the first time or in a new form. The snacks, and David’s spirit, won over some kids, with the Jalapeño flavor being the most popular.
Ithaca Hummus has donated many squeeze packets of hummus to our school for kids to taste this year. Ingredients like chickpeas, lemons, garlic, roasted peppers, and beets in the hummus make it nutritious and flavorful. The beet hummus, a bright pink color, was a big surprise for students who realized how delicious beets were! Thank you Ithaca Hummus for providing a creative way to encourage students to eat the rainbow.
At PS 145 this spring, WITS Chef Victoria partnered with Gotham Greens to plant basil seedlings. Students learned basil care tips like repotting, watering, and making sure plants get enough sunlight. Plus, basil is perfect for a minty touch in any recipe!
Last but not least, a lucky group of students from PS 145M, along with WITS Chefs Kisha and Victoria, visited the Sakara Life kitchen at Long Island City this spring. They got a behind-the-scenes look at Sakara’s production and research & development — including all that goes into making nutritious, delicious meals — and even made their own plant-rich cookie dough creation to take home. Throughout this year, Sakara’s team of Chefs and volunteers have hosted numerous Cafe Days and events and continue to be a valuable partner to Wellness in the School’s work on the ground.
Thank you, WITS Chef and Fitness Partners, for a fabulous school year! Happy summer, and we can’t wait to dive into another school year with you all.