New Culinary Center at Union Promotes Healthy Eating Habits

New Culinary Center at Union Promotes Healthy Eating Habits
Posted on 03/12/2018
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Students making salad in culinary centerIf you’ve noticed the waning selection of kale at Kroger, it just may be attributed to the new culinary center at Union Elementary School.


“We like to think we had something to do with that,” laughed Union Principal Kyle Lichey, recalling that news he heard from a parent as he joined a class of sixth-graders chopping, mixing and taste-testing a kale salad they learned to make in the new space. For many, it was their first-ever taste of kale and by and large, it received rave reviews.  

“I never realized kale could be so good in a salad,” said Union sixth-grader Olivia Taylor. “It changed my view of vegetables. I learned that you can create things that are outside your comfort level that are still good.”


“Junk food is tasty, but sometimes kids don’t realize that healthy food can also taste good,” said Union sixth-grader Austin Mundy.


Originally the vision of former Union Principal Ben Brown (now principal at Ridge Junior School), the center was launched with the support of Lakota’s Child Nutrition Department, Assistant Principal Gina Sansone and teachers Julie Kellerman, Katie Bohn, Tricia Adkins, Jackie Bender and Beth Fintel. Lichey has received feedback from several parents, describing the sudden positive swing in their children’s eating habits. One Union parent described her son’s sudden interest in cooking. All week long he planned out the ingredients he would need to make kale salad for his family, she said.


“It’s so much more than teaching them the mechanics of cooking,” Lichey said. “It’s about battling kids’ food insecurities and promoting the fact that a healthy body makes for a healthy mind. By teaching them the health benefits of food and how it positively affects their bodies, my hope is that it establishes lifelong eating habits.”  


Beginning in February, classes at every grade level have been rotating through the new space. Every day during Tutoring & Enrichment, for four weeks at a time, students visit the center with their teacher. Lessons feature kitchen and food safety, nutrition education and hands-on, interactive cooking demonstrations and meal preparation skills.


Students work in groups to prepare simple nutritious recipes like no bake apple tart, polka dot orzo salad and pumpkin spice french toast. The activities oftentimes incorporate concepts overlapping core subject areas like math and geography, too.


“It’s already proven a great tool for breaking through to students who don’t get excited about learning in more traditional ways,” Lichey said. “Plus, wellness is a pillar of the educational experience we strive to create at Union. We sincerely believe in the power of giving our students the tools and knowledge they need to make more healthy dietary choices.”

Photo: Union sixth-graders (left to right) Aidan Terry, Cayle Reichow, Alexandra Mosher and Alyssa Hill work together to prepare their super kale salad.