I served on a panel this week as Walmart announced its Great for You icon label on healthier foods. I was there to stress nutrition education, because we absolutely have to bridge the gap between identifying healthy food on the shelf and learning how to use it.
I work with low-income families in the Washington D.C. and Maryland area. I am in the trenches with them, and I can tell you: there is a disconnect between the store and the kitchen.
I am a chef educator and I have worked with WIC clinics in Maryland and hosted “Back to Basics” cooking demonstrations with a focus on low-fat cooking, reading labels, portion control, using herbs and spices and much more.
My clients are very eager. They may be disadvantaged economically but they are in no way disadvantaged in terms of intellect. They are very savvy about how they spend their money in the grocery store. And once I have given them the tools to prepare nutritious meals at home, they absorb it and use it right away.
They are passing that knowledge on within their families, and making changes that span the generations – one recipe at a time.
This work is my passion, and that’s why I travel through underserved communities with my car loaded with everything I need to cook anywhere – in schools, churches, homes – anywhere where people are, because they absolutely want the tools to cook healthier.
One of my favorite demonstrations was with potato salad. I used sweet potatoes instead, and people discovered that the taste is almost identical to white potatoes – but the nutritional content is exponentially different.
Here is a recipe, in both English and Spanish, for my Jicama and Apple Showstopper Slaw. Give it a try. Healthy eating changes lives, and I am on the road every day spreading that message – because it changed mine.