Preschoolers at the Rutgers Psychology Child Development Center at the Culture of Health Academy at the New Jersey Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health (IFNH) made a sweet and savory fruit soup to celebrate the beginning of winter solstice. IFNH Harvest Chef Ian Keith led the children’s cooking lesson preparing a soup of Granny Smith apples, Rutgers-grown yacon–a sweet root vegetable, white yams, Vidalia onions, vegetable stock and Muenster cheese. Harvest and the Center for Nutrition, Education, and Outreach at IFNH in partnership with New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative hosted the event.
This food demonstration stimulated the senses of the 3 – 4 year olds on several fronts. The welcoming of the winter solstice with a hearty soup enhanced the connection of the comfort and nourishment of hot soup on a cold winter’s day; that soup can be savory or sweet; and most importantly, that healthy eating involves food preparation. “Teaching culinary skills to kids early in life is an important step to foster healthy and lifelong nutrition habits,” commented Center director Peggy Policastro.
The children participated by making the diced Rome garnish for the soup. The other garnishes were minced turkey bacon, cubed day-old multi-grain bread and Muenster cheese–”sort of an apple grilled cheese soup,” explained Keith. The yacon that Keith used in the soup was grown at Rutgers as part of a research trial of this South American vegetable which is growing in popularity in the U.S. due to its health benefits. Keith is working on the culinary development of yacon as part of the research project.
As part of the cooking lesson, Chef Keith also talked about five different varieties of apples: Macintosh, Red Delicious and Honey Crisp–eating apples, which all have different colors, flavors and textures, and two cooking apples, Granny Smith and Rome Beauty.
After the food preparation and discussion, the children got to eat their creation. The response of the kids, said Keith, was “Thumbs up all around!”
The Culture of Health Academy operates as a partnership between the Center for Childhood Nutrition Research (CCNR) and the Rutgers Psychology Child Development Center, and is located at the Institute for Food, Nutrition, and Health on the George H. Cook Campus. It is a focal point of the New Jersey Healthy Kids Initiative, a program recently launched to achieve health equity for all children. The Center for Nutrition, Education, and Outreach explores the intersection of food preparation, nutrition and healthy lifestyles and runs in partnership with Rutgers Dining Services.