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Chef's visit stirs interest in healthy food
Dish features veggies from school garden
Chef WEB 1
Professional chef Tom Costello cooks a meal Monday for students on the Cumming Elementary School Green Team. He used ingredients from the school’s garden. - photo by Jennifer Sami

Students on the Cumming Elementary School Green Team have learned about eating meals cooked with fresh vegetables directly from the garden.

On Monday, they got to taste the difference.

Using fresh ingredients from the school’s 32-bed garden, Chef Tom Costello prepared a gourmet meal of mashed turnips and chicken stir fry for the students.

It wasn’t the usual after-school snack, but rather part of a special program called Chefs Move to Schools, where culinary professionals work with schools to share their expertise.

“It shows the kids how to eat healthy,” said Costello, a chef at Horseshoe Bend Country Club in Roswell. “It’s not like when we were kids when were just eating [fast food] ... this is good for the kids.”

Costello, whose daughter, Sarah, is a Green Team member, said it’s important to teach kids at a young age that there are healthy alternatives to junk food.

Some were skeptical when Costello offered the mashed turnips, a less starchy alternative to potatoes. After a few bites, however, many students lined up for a second helping.

With the exception of the chicken, all the ingredients in Costello’s stir fry had been grown by the students and parent volunteers, including the Costellos.

Cindy Costello, who served as her husband’s sous chef Monday, said having the students get involved with gardening “gives them a sense of accomplishment.”

“They have more of a tendency to eat the food if they’re growing it themselves than if they just pull it out of a bag from the store,” she said.
“When they grow it, they feel proud.”

It was Anna Doll who first signed up Cumming Elementary for the Chefs Move to Schools initiative, launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010. More than 1,600 chefs nationwide have joined.

Doll, a special education teacher, also serves as the Green Team organizer. All 55 kids in the club learn how to garden, recycle and take care of the environment. They also learned Monday that healthy eating can be fun.

“When we read about the program, we thought it would be really cool,” Doll said. “We wanted the kids to see how those vegetables [they’re growing] are prepared.”

According to Doll, Costello will visit the school at least three times a year to cook with the season’s vegetables. While the school’s garden has been around for three years, this was the first time students got a gourmet sample of their work.

Principal Pam Pajerski said the initiative “allows us to teach the process of our food going from farm to table.”

“Our pre-K through fifth-grade students start our seeds in our germinating system, move them to a cold frame, plant and grow them in our garden and then harvest and prepare them in our kitchen,” she said.