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Bloomfield Hills

February 12, 2013

New recipes, healthy eating spice up Eastover parent night

By Robin Ruehlen
C & G Staff Writer

BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Coming up with healthy, great tasting meals that kids and parents both enjoy isn’t always easy for busy families — but Eastover Elementary is out to change that with its Healthy Foods = Healthy Families Parent Information Night Feb. 19.

The event will also help kick off Eastover’s Cook Harvest Eat Well — or C.H.E.W. — program’s Eat a Rainbow Challenge in March, which encourages students to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day.

Visible Thinking and Sustainability Coordinator Christine Tang said that, while some families already encourage healthy habits at home, she knows that many parents are always looking for new and creative recipes and tips to make meals more interesting.

“As kids grow up, tastes and nutritional needs can change, and most people don’t want to eat the same thing all the time,” she said.

“We have a really special panel of experts coming to speak that night, and I believe that they will provide families with some great insight into how to maintain healthy habits when dining out, how to start their own organic gardens at home with their kids, and the benefits of eating local and seasonal fresh produce.”

Tang said chef James Rigato from The Root Restaurant in White Lake and Michelle Lutz from Henry Ford Hospital will be on hand, along with nutrition and gardening experts, to provide families with some practical suggestions and substitutions that they can implement right away.

“Our goal is to feature healthy foods that busy parents can serve to their families.  We are also looking for local vendors (grocery stores or restaurants) who might be willing to provide some healthy samples or snacks that evening,” she said.

Eastover and Bloomfield Hills Schools partnered with Rigato last August to create the C.H.E.W. program with the goal of making school lunches healthier by offering whole and locally grown foods in exchange for fewer processed foods.

Rigato assisted by teaching Eastover staff new recipes using ingredients from the Eastover garden, recipes teachers could then create with students using the school’s mobile kitchen.

“Our long-term goal is to change the way kids receive and perceive food, and finding new ways to fitting healthy eating into the curriculum,” he said previously, noting that teachers can use the recipes to teach math, science and chemistry lessons, as well.

“We’re not going too crazy at the elementary level, but we want to give the teachers ideas and get the kids excited,” he said.

For example, during “Eat a Rainbow” month, families will fill out a checklist of fruits and vegetables at home, and students will bring the completed charts to school. 

“We’ll see which class does the best at eating a rainbow, and the winning class will get a cooking session with chef Rigato using our mobile kitchen,” Tang said.

Since the C.H.E.W. program’s inception, Tang said, she has heard many stories from Eastover parents about how their children are cooking with them daily, when they never expressed an interest before. Parents have also noticed that the program has made their students more willing to try new foods.

“Last week, a second-grade class made ratatouille. We had 8-year-olds eating a zucchini, squash, eggplant, tomato and fresh herb dish that they probably would have never been willing to try, had they not been involved in the fun cooking process,” Tang said. 

“Even teachers have told me they think twice when they are at the grocery store, and have been more conscious of what they are serving their families. We still have a long way to go, but we are already seeing some great results and are excited about the upcoming gardening season.”

Eastover is also seeking parent volunteers who are interested in helping with the school’s vegetable and fruit garden, as well as special projects like Rainbow Month, hydroponics and composting. For more information, contact Christine Tang at ctang@bloomfield.org.

The Healthy Foods = Healthy Families Parent Information Night will take place 6-8 p.m. Feb. 19 in the Eastover Elementary media center, 1101 Westview Road in Bloomfield Hills.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Robin Ruehlen at rruehlen@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1105.