This month our FoodCorps service members prepared Butternut Fries for our Harvest of the Month taste tests! Here's the recipe:
Build Your Own Healthy Snack
By Kelly Zimmerhanzel, FoodCorps Service Member
Eating healthy can be hard, or at least, that’s what you may think. With new diets and superfoods appearing faster than I can keep track, it can seem impossible to keep up with what is “good for you” this week. When you look at the beautiful, complicated, and expensive health foods featured on Instagram, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and decide that you don’t have the time or money to eat healthy. But eating well doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, it’s so easy a second grader can do it.
This month, two of my second grade classes at Bowe and Lambert-Lavoie learned how to build a healthy snack. The formula is simple: combine a whole grain, protein, and fruit or vegetable. I used Life Lab’s Go, Grow, Glow framework to explain to the kids how each of these ingredients help our bodies in distinct ways. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates that help our bodies Go, meaning they give us long-lasting energy to do things like running, jumping, and dancing. Foods with protein help our bodies Grow tall and strong, because proteins are the building blocks of bone and muscle. Fruits and vegetables make our bodies literally Glow because they contain vitamins and minerals that keep us healthy, giving us clear skin, shiny hair, and bright eyes.
For the whole grain component, we used Triscuits because, unlike many other packaged crackers, which have preservatives and added sugars, Triscuts are made with just three simple ingredients: whole grain wheat, vegetable oil, and salt. For the protein, we used Vanilla Spice Sunflower Seed Butter from 88 Acres, a bakery located in Boston that makes locally-sourced, allergen-free foods. Sunflower seed butter is a great alternative for kids with peanut or almond allergies, and can be found at most grocery stores. For the fruit or vegetable component, we used bananas because they’re cheap and wholesome, with tons of potassium and B vitamins. The kids loved the snack, especially the bananas, much to my delight.
That’s it, three simple ingredients: a whole grain, protein, and fruit or vegetable, and you’ve made yourself a healthy snack. The best part is, you can get creative with whatever you have around the house. Have some yogurt? Toss in some granola and berries. A little cheddar cheese? Put it on a cracker with a slice of apple. The combinations are practically endless. So next time you or your kids want a snack, remember the Go, Glow, Grow method.
This month we've been showing love to one of our favorite new local vendors, 88 Acres, which is a family-run business based in Boston, MA that makes allergy-friendly snacks like flavored sunflower seed butter, seed bars, and "seednola."
With food allergies on the rise, both individuals and institutions are looking for delicious, safe options that everyone can enjoy. At 88 Acres, consumer safety is the number one priority. All products are created in a dedicated bakery free from top allergens such as peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, dairy, sesame, eggs, fish, and shellfish.
This commitment to food safety is personal for husband and wife co-founders, Rob and Nicole, who know firsthand just how difficult living with a severe allergy can be. After a scary fourth date, when Rob nearly died from cross-contaminated meal, Nicole started experimenting with baking healthy treats that both of them could enjoy. Eventually, 88 Acres was born!
In addition to creating a safe product, the couple wanted to develop a fun brand that would represent Nicole's ties to the 88 acre family farm where she grew up. They also wanted to help reduce the stigma that can surround allergy-friendly products by making 88 Acres a brand that everyone would want to reach for. Here at ChicopeeFRESH, we think they've done an awesome job! Keep reading to learn more about how we serve 88 Acres seed bars in our cafeterias.
Since the start of the school year, we have been serving up 88 Acres seed bars in our elementary schools as part of our regular breakfast and Breakfast in the Classroom programs. Students have responded really well to the Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and Triple Berry flavors, and we wanted to take advantage of the release of the new Cinnamon & Oats flavor to host some taste tests and bring these delicious snack bars to more students across the district! So we designated February as 88 Acres Month, and scheduled a series of taste tests at Chicopee elementary and middle schools, including Dupont, Streiber, Bellamy, Lambert-Lavoie, and Bowie.
To get middle school students more pumped up about trying this local product, we're hosting Lucky Plate days on March 1st and March 2nd at Dupont and Bellamy middle schools. Five lucky students at each school will win an 88 Acres swag bag with a variety of seed bars and stickers (see below).
If you'd like to try 88 Acres products at home, you can order them here or find them on Amazon or at a store near you! Our personal favorites are the Dark Chocolate Seed Butter and the Apple Ginger and Dark Chocolate Seed Bars. YUM!
Super smoothie Bowls
By Molly Burke, FoodCorps service member
The next time your kid is bored with their breakfast, why not let them play with their food? Kids love to get artsy with what they eat, and a healthy way to encourage that creativity is to let them decorate fruit-and-veggie-packed smoothie bowls. A smoothie bowl is just what it sounds like--a thick smoothie poured into a bowl and eaten with a spoon instead of sipped through a straw. Smoothie bowls started gaining popularity in 2015 on social media and food blogs due to their eye-catching color combinations and health benefits.
In Instagram posts and fitness magazine articles, they’re pictured lavishly topped with rainbows of chopped tropical fruit, stripes of nuts and seeds, piles of granola, and sometimes generous dustings of chocolate chips. Common smoothie ingredients include nutrient-dense produce like spinach, kale, acai berries, and avocado. By all accounts, a smoothie bowl for breakfast is a great way to get a bunch of fiber, vitamins, and minerals in your system before you start your day.
If you’ve never had a smoothie bowl, this may sound and look like an expensive, time-consuming, possibly not tasty mess; there are too many toppings to keep up with, and you’re not so sure about vegetable smoothies. Fear not--there’s no need to break the bank to make a beautiful and delicious smoothie bowl. The best smoothie vegetables are spinach, shredded carrots, beets, and kale. Instead of more expensive fruit, opt for frozen bananas, strawberries or peaches. It’s easy to mask vegetable flavors with fruit--just add a larger amount of fruit than vegetables, and you won’t taste any bitterness. For affordable toppings, try whole grain, low-sugar cereal like Cheerios, puffed rice, or shredded wheat, and other items like peanuts, almond slivers, and sunflower seeds. Baking your own granola at home with rolled oats, honey, and cinnamon can be cheaper and healthier than buying super sugary, pre-made granola. Or try sprinkling broken-up granola bars. Save this for a weekend breakfast or after-school snack until your kids find their favorite combinations. They’ll be smoothie bowl building pros in no time.
Here’s a recipe for mix-and-match fruit and vegetable smoothies. For smoothie bowls, use less liquid so the consistency stays thick. That way, it won’t melt by the time you’re ready to eat.
Last week, a class of 5th graders at Stefanik had a lot of fun decorating beet and spinach smoothies. They used Cheerios, sunflower seeds, and nut-free 88 Acres granola bars as toppings and left class with bellies full of a healthy, satisfying snack. Experiment with this at home and see what your kids come up with! Send us pictures at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome baby sage!
By Molly Burke, FoodCorps service member
No, not a human baby--Litwin's first sage sprout! Like clockwork, this little guy just popped up in one of the planters made by Litwin students three weeks ago. Visible are its tiny stem and cotyledons, or first leaves. Along with embryonic roots, cotyledons first form inside the seed and spring out above the ground once planted. Their mission is to begin the cycle of photosynthesis, so the baby plant gets energy from the sun to grow to maturity.
Cotyledons look different from a plant's true leaves, which we use to tell different plants apart. Once these round and stubby baby leaves soak up the sun, the plant will grow its characteristic long, gray-green, fuzzy true leaves and give off its trademark peppery scent. Yum! We are well on our way to a flourishing indoor garden.
The ChicopeeFRESH team is a group of creative individuals who are working to feed Chicopee students healthy, local and FRESH foods each day.