Amazing Kids! Magazine

Huntington’s Experience

by Natalie Brady, Jr. Assistant Editor

Street View Picture of Huntington's Kitchen

Jamie Oliver is an English chef, with his own TV show called “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution”. Have you seen this show? The show is about Jamie going to different places where kids aren’t eating properly and trying to get them to eat a more balanced diet. Jamie’s first stop was Huntington, West Virginia.

In March 2008, eight counties around the Huntington, WV area were in the spotlight of data analyses from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by Surgeon General Steven K. Galson. This information he shared pointed out Huntington, WV, as the fattest city in America.

William Smith, superintendent of Cabell County’s school district in Huntington, WV, thought there were pros and cons of being on this show. Learning to eat healthier was “good for the kids”, as Smith put it. “The most concerning thing was we were not interested in being demonized by the media. We didn’t want to look like we didn’t care.” As a matter of fact, Huntington was already starting to make changes to the way Huntington ate: Jamie Oliver just helped them along faster. The WV Child Nutrition Standard now requires that all snacks for activities such as birthday parties have to meet strict standards. For birthdays, the parents are not allowed to bring in home-madecookies or cupcakes: they have to buy them from the school. In fact, Cabell County Schools have a booklet of child nutrition standards.

For the past several years, the food service has been striving to lower sodium and fat in school meals. Cabell County Schools is now going even further, and is going to reduce or eliminate processed foods altogether. Sustainable Food Systems will be working with the school chefs, teaching them new techniques and skills that will be needed to cook meals from scratch.

“The Food Revolution has given them healthier meals during the school day, and they will continue to improve,” says Smith. The Food Revolution has made students more aware of healthy eating. “I’d like to see more public service announcements,” Smith states. People are demanding more healthy food all over the world. Smoothies are coming out in fast food restaurants. The federal government is commanding more healthy food, as well.

“I’d like to see some more kind of support come in,” Smith says. Smith thinks the changes being made in Huntington are good. When asked what he would tell other school districts that are interested in changing their lunch programs, he said, “I would recommend it highly – you can converse. You can involve cooks, teachers… it applies for everybody. Ask the very important question: what’s happening to our kids?”

Huntington has to keep talking about the Food Revolution and being healthier, or Smith’s afraid they’ll forget and go back to eating the way they were before. “Parents would easily switch back to fast foods,” he states. In fact, Smith himself has been spending more time in the kitchen because of the Food Revolution, cooking healthier meals for him and his family. For the schools, they have a new feeding program over the summer so the kids and their families don’t switch back to eating unhealthily. Cabell County Schools wiped out flavored milk, but ended up putting it back in for only lunch and not breakfast, and low sugar, because the teachers wrote the governor about how it’s not appropriate to wipe out the flavored milk.

Jillian Moore, kitchen manager of Huntington’s Kitchen, works with the Ebenezer Medical Outreach, Inc., who took over Huntington’s Kitchen after Jamie Oliver left because they are a free medical clinic with a healthy lifestyle. In the last two years, they had started educational classes that involved more of the cooking side, and Huntington’s Kitchen fit in very nicely with their program. Ebenezer Medical Outreach, Inc. needed someone from their organization they knew and trusted to work as the manager of Huntington’s Kitchen, and Jillian Moore was put in charge.

When the Food Revolution first came to Huntington, Moore stated, “A lot of people were worried. They played devil’s advocate. They were worried about how they’d portray us, and there was some apprehension.” But, as soon as Jamie Oliver arrived, she felt more comfortable and supportive of what they were doing.

At Huntington’s Kitchen, the people there offer children’s lessons designed by Handstand Kids Cookbooks (www.handstandkids.com). “Handstand Kids Cookbooks developed a curriculum: two weeks of Italian, two weeks of Mexican, and one week of Chinese,” Moore says. For adults, there are eight weeks of lessons.

There’s good participation in Huntington for Huntington’s Kitchen, which opened last February. There are ten to twelve classes a week, a maximum of twelve in a class and a minimum of six. They ask for a ten dollar donation to participate, but if you don’t have the money you don’t have to donate.

Classes in action inside Huntington's Kitchen

“People are more aware and thinking more about long term health and things they can do,” Moore says happily.

Next year, they are going to be putting in a teen class and will be adding Round 2 for adults.

When at Huntington’s Kitchen, I took a children’s class with three other girls. Joe, the chef who leads the class, called us up before we started and told us we’d be making Chinese Lettuce Wraps, and showed us what to do. When he finished, he set us loose and we began chopping scallions and broccoli, and shredding carrots. When all the vegetables were either chopped or shredded, we mixed them with some soy sauce and honey, and then stir-fried them. When they were done cooking, we put our stir-fried vegetables in lettuce leaves and ate them.

Maddie, an eight year old girl in third grade, was one of the three girls in the class. She had done these classes before and says, “It’s very fun; it’s one of my favorite things to do.” Maddie doesn’t cook at home except when helping her mom or grandma, but she’s going to start soon. She’s made spaghetti, wraps, rolls, and plenty more.