Raisins have a reputation of being the Halloween treats that remain at the bottom of the sack long after the sugary lollipops and chocolates have been devoured. If the enthusiasm for vegetables at Eat NYC–held Monday night at Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on W. 93rd Street–was any indication, dried fruit might be able to hold its own this Halloween.
The night was a benefit in honor of the first National Food Day, which aims in part to improve childhood nutrition. To that end the evening was also a part of Veggication,” a curriculum-based nutrition education program that introduces young children to the delicious and nutritious world of vegetables.” Tables with produce-centric food from restaurants from around the city (and companies and programs devoted to the cause of childhood nutrition) filled the gymnasium as families ate and learned their way around the room.
A giant food pyramid collage, constructed of magazine clippings of appropriate food decorated one wall, across from a giant cucumber (“C is for Cucumber!”) painting by a lower school class. The “Kindergarten Farm-to-Table” project, consisting of paper plates with glued on photos of healthy meals was another favorite. Perhaps the most important thing that was taken away from the event was that the children were having fun with good food, and not just with the “I tried this” stickers that were given out by the Veggication table.
Over in the South Gym, Sandra Lee was a keynote speaker, telling an audience that included her nephew Tad, that cooking satisfies not only the basic need to eat, but also teaches children how to read, shop, measure and count. Stephanie Sacks, a culinary nutritionist, was up next to discuss the need to start culinary education early in life. She urged parents to garden, cook and shop with their children. While not all city parents have the luxury of outdoor space, they do have access to some of the best farmers markets in the world, where the can bring their children for culinary “field-trips” followed by a bonding experience around the kitchen as dinner is prepared.
Sacks also pointed out how we fall prey to food product marketing, and are so inundated with information that it can be hard to take it all in. She gave tips on sifting through the information, like sticking to foods with a limited ingredient list. Raisins, anyone?