By Marie Pfeifer
Teaching 105 kindergartners to eat healthy while enjoying it became a challenge that
Morristown Councilwoman Michelle Dupree Harris and fellow kindergarten teachers at the Alfred Vail School turned into a cooking and dining experience.
That experience culminated with a personal cookbook for each child, and a book signing at a dinner at the Morris Plains school on Wednesday evening.
It all began with a suggestion from Ann Rhines of the Morris School District Board of Education, who suggested that Harris apply for a grant from the Morris Educational Foundation.
Healthy eating begins with learning where the food you eat comes from. The kindergartners took a field trip to Grow It Green Morristown’s Urban Farm at Lafayette, where Farmer Shaun Ananko taught plant life cycles by helping the children plant a seed in a cup. They recorded the seed’s growth and eventually transplanted it into the garden.
The Shop Rite Cooking Studio in Cedar Knolls was the natural next stop, where students engaged in recipe-making and food handling, as well as lunch and, of course, the necessary exercise of clean-up.
A highlight of the trip was a brown bag pizza kit, to share pizza-making with their families while learning how to follow a recipe and measure ingredients.
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Anthony Guttridge had his cooking routine down to a science.
“First I put sauce on the pita, then cheese and I baked it! It was easy and fun,” he said.
Anthony shared his pizza with his mom and his sister, Amelia.
Janet Lopez was all smiles as well. “It was fun, I followed the instructions, and the pizza tasted good!”
She enjoyed her pizza with her little sister, Juliette, and their mom.
The project encompassed many Core Curriculum content standards, and included compiling a personal Healthy K Kids Cookbook for each child, said Harris, who teaches at Alfred Vail. The cookbook reflects recipes the kids received at the Shop Rite cooking studio –such as Mini Pita Pizzas with Veggie Toppings, Rainbow Veggie Salad and Festive Fruit Kebobs — along with photos of their home cooking adventures.
Artistic endeavor had its place in this project, too. The students made chefs hats and created “Healthy Plate” place mats.
Joe Zezza, ShopRite chef, was on hand to sign each child’s cookbook.
The project received a $3,120 grant from the MEF, and $2,530 worth of donated ingredients, materials or money from the Alfred Vail Home and School Association, Sona Thirteen, the Iron Bar, the law firm of O’Donnell McCord, Villa Enterprises, ShopRite and CBD Consulting, according to Harris.