Healthy Cooking and Baking Classes for Kids

Nourishment from Stony Brook Farm
Kids connect with their food at workshop

It’s one thing to ask kids to eat their vegetables. Stony Brook Medicine also shows kids how to harvest and cook their own food, using produce from the Stony Brook Heights Rooftop Farm on the roof of the Health Sciences Tower.

A dozen local children ages six to eight years old took part in a four-day workshop that gave them a deeper understanding of food and its benefits. As they picked produce from the rooftop farm, many experienced for the first time the spicy fragrance of basil and the feel of tomatoes still warm from the sun.

Later, the kids brought their peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, watermelon, herbs and tomatoes into the Health Sciences Tower Galleria. Staff from the Department of Family, Population and Preventive Medicine’s Nutrition Division showed them how to take their harvest and turn it into vegetable stuffed pita pockets, herbed omelettes, salads, muffins, smoothies and more.

The children also learned how to safely use kitchen tools and follow a recipe. With supervision, they poured milk into measuring cups, and practiced their knife skills by chopping bananas to make smoothies. Together they set the table and then took their seats for a delicious group meal. Along the way, they discovered that working as a team is nourishing in many ways.

While helping the kids pack up their leftovers to take home, the instructors also talked about the value of not wasting food.

Sotiria Everett, assistant clinical professor in the Nutrition Division who coordinated the workshop, said the classes would help the children develop a connection with their food. Eight-year-old James agreed that it’s good to be mindful about nutrition.

“If you don’t eat healthy, you could not have a good life, and maybe not feel well,” he said. “And you want to feel well, so you can do better things.”

The children were taught some of the cultural origins of recipes prepared during the cooking series. Hummus and pesto were on the menu, and proved to be popular favorites despite being unfamiliar to some of the diners.

“If these kids try one new food during our workshops, then it’s a success,” said Sharon Schmidt, another Nutrition Division associate teaching the workshop.

Cara Montesano and Annie Ng, registered dietitians in the Nutrition Division, co-manage the Stony Brook Heights Rooftop Farm and guided the children through the beds of vegetables, melons and herbs.. On average the Nutrition Division harvests 1,500 pounds of produce each year from the farm. Most of the produce is used to supplement Stony Brook Medicine patient meals, and the rest is donated to the Stony Brook Food Pantry located on west campus, Hope House Ministries, Stony Brook Women Infants and Children (WIC) programs and Stony Brook HOME, a free medical student-run clinic in Islip Terrace.

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