Nourishing Minds and Bodies: Inside Food Bank's CookShop Program

March 25, 2024  |  by Maggie Prendergast   |  

The sound of a trickling hydroponic tower mixes with the excited chatter of second graders as they gather in the well-equipped science lab at their Brooklyn public school. Food Bank For New York City has partnered with this school for nine years, supplying not only vegetables, but comprehensive nutrition lesson plans, teacher training, and guidance on healthy eating through our CookShop program. 

IMG_5385The school's CookShop educator, Ms. Elzoghby in the elementary school's well-equipped science lab.

Launched over 30 years ago, CookShop is all about empowering teachers with the resources they need to educate their students about cooking, nutrition, and physical fitness. It aims to foster enthusiasm in children for fresh fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole foods. Each year, CookShop Classroom reaches over  13,000 New Yorkers through partnerships with 60 schools and 20 after-school programs. Let’s hop back into our Brooklyn classroom to see this dynamic program in action...

IMG_5389Tasting notes students have charted.

IMG_5390CookShop provides comprehensive lesson plans for educators. 

Ms. Elzoghby, the CookShop educator, guides the group of 16 students through the process of preparing a fresh salsa with cucumber dippers using vegetables provided by Food Bank. As the students begin cutting their cucumbers, one exclaims, "They smell good!" When asked about their favorite vegetables, responses include lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, and carrots. Two students even discuss a famous YouTuber's knife skills, showcasing their growing interest in cooking. 

IMG_5396A seven-year-old practices knife skills.IMG_5404Students collaborate on making salsa.

"I'm a chef at home!" one student proudly declares, while another chimes in, "I know how to use real knives." Their enthusiasm is palpable as they collaborate on the salsa recipe, eagerly calling out the next ingredients needed: “vinegar and oil!” It's clear they've learned their way around a salad dressing. 

IMG_5407Ms. Elzoghby helps a student add olive oil to dress the salsa. 

Ms. Elzoghby even incorporates math questions into the lesson, asking, "If I need to add two teaspoons, but I only have a half-teaspoon measurement spoon, what should I do?" She receives the correct answer of four total from an eager eight-year-old. Nutrition Education incorporates many subjects, and the curriculum is infused with math, science, literacy, and Social Emotional learning.  

IMG_5399Enthusiasm abounds: students eagerly raise their hands for extra carrots.

When the vegetables are cut, but before it’s ready to be tasted, Ms. Elzoghby reviews the group's rules: "Don't yuck someone's yum" and "Don't eat until everybody's been served." With a countdown of "!" the tasting begins. 

IMG_5414Students are served salsa and wait until everyone has some to taste it.  IMG_5412Food Bank's CookShop program encourages children to love fruits and vegetables.

The group seems to enjoy what they’ve prepared, and one student excitedly says: "I'm gonna taste the juice! Good to the last drop!" While some find the onions "spicy," others delight in their flavor. Many even come back for seconds, a testament to the program's success in encouraging healthy eating habits. 

IMG_5417A student carefully tastes the "spicy" onions. 

As the lesson concludes, the students file out of the science lab having tasted six different vegetables in one lesson. Ms. Elzoghby reports that more students are trying the cafeteria’s offerings at their daily salad bar. Healthy eating habits have left the classroom and entered everyday life. The impact of Food Bank's CookShop program is evident: by nourishing both minds and bodies, CookShop is cultivating a generation of informed, enthusiastic, and healthy young New Yorkers. 

IMG_5419 This salsa allowed the students to try more than 6 vegetables in one lesson. 

IMG_5429A holistic approach to Nutrition Education includes gardening.  

Food Bank's CookShop program has a much greater reach than most nutrition education programs in the city and is currently serving 63 schools. It employs a train-the-trainer model that enables more teachers to provide this type of education within their schools. Each year CookShop trains about 600 teachers to implement the program. 

For more information on how you can support or get involved with CookShop, click here.

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