It was my pleasure to partner with Foodchain, a local nonprofit organization, to teach a dairy good lesson for Lexington's youth!
Foodchain was established in 2011, but has grown tremendously in a short period of time. They work to forge links between fresh food and the community through education and demonstration of sustainable food systems. Located in a designated food desert, where their neighbors live well below the poverty line, Foodchain's mission is to operate with a commitment to make fresh food, and the necessary knowledge to work with fresh ingredients, accessible to all.
They built Kentucky's first indoor aquaponics farm, which combines fish farming with soilless plant production and yields both fresh fish and plants for food year-round. Since 2013 the non-profit has provided nearly 13,000 educational contact hours in the form of neighborhood art projects, classroom aquaponics workshops, tours, tabling events, community summer camps, workshops, talks and presentations, and other community events. They have recently begun forging their newest link in the food production system - a Teaching and Processing Kitchen to educate and employ participants in meal planning and preparation, proper food handling techniques, knife skills, and nutrition.
Foodchain currently partners with GleanKY, local farmers, KY Farms to FoodBanks, and God's Pantry to utilize "seconds produce," or products that cannot be sold through typical markets such as grocery stores. About 40% of food is wasted in the United States, but Foodchain is helping to reduce this statistic by transforming seconds produce into convenient products that can be used in homes or institutions, such as public schools.
In addition to the Processing Kitchen, Foodchain also offers educational programming for all ages in their Teaching Kitchen. Using fresh, seasonal produce that is locally available the goal is to enable learners to work with whole products and transform them into nutritious and delicious meals at home.
This 7-week program offered at Foodchain's Teaching Kitchen aims to empower youth to learn basic cooking techniques, local produce seasonality and nutrition. Children from three neighboring elementary schools that have the highest rates of Free & Reduced Lunch in the area are recruited to participate in the program, with the goal of empowering a culture around local, affordable, and healthy eating.
The Dairy Alliance was invited to teach a dairy focused lesson at the Cook. Eat. Grow. program this month. Students had a fun time learning the nutrients provided by the dairy group and why those nutrients are important for our health, such as building strong bones and muscles, heart health, and maintaining a healthy weight. The students did a great job giving examples of dairy foods and sharing their favorites with the group. Kids were excited to report they choose milk with their meals, and that they drink water in between!
We also reviewed lactose intolerance and how people can still enjoy lactose-free milk, hard cheeses, and some yogurt even if they have some trouble digesting dairy. The kids enjoyed a Virtual Dairy Farm tour and learned more about different breeds of cows, how they are milked, and how dairy farmers work hard to recycle and keep their farms sustainable. After our lesson, the group enjoyed cooking Butternut Squash Macaroni & Cheese, which used real butter, milk and cheddar cheese. They enjoyed eating it even more, asking for seconds and thirds!
Programs like Cook. Eat. Grow. at Foodchain are so very important for empowering our community's youth to grow into healthy adults. Not only do they receive a hot meal after their lesson, but they also work to understand why that meal is good for them, and are visibly excited to take the recipes home to make for their family members.
Thank you to our partners at Foodchain for giving us this opportunity to spread the wealth of dairy good knowledge.
Visit their website for more information about how you can get involved!
A collection of stories related to my work as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN) with The Dairy Alliance. Views are my own.