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Chef Teaches Roosevelt and Meisler Students the Art of Healthy Cooking

On Tuesday, March 19, a group of enterprising young students at Theodore Roosevelt Middle School enjoyed an afternoon that would make most adults jealous: learning how to cook a delicious, healthy lasagna alongside New Orleans chef Alon Shaya.

Shaya, chef and partner at Domenica restaurant, was the special guest of Cooking up Healthy Options and Portions (CHOP), a free middle school cooking program at Roosevelt and J.D. Meisler Middle Schools designed to teach students the skills necessary to prepare healthy and homemade meals.
Roosevelt 7th grader Keila Anderson said she enjoyed participating in the program because she likes trying something new.

“Every Tuesday we learned about healthy eating and we got a recipe to take home and cook with our family,” said Anderson.

CHOP is sponsored by Ochsner Health System as part of its “Change the Kids, Change the Future” program and through a grant from the Humana Foundation. It complements the LSU AgCenter’s “Smart Choices” nutrition program offered in several JPPSS schools during the fall and is also supported by Healthy Lifestyle Choices.

The 10-week program featured instruction and hands-on preparation of a new healthy recipe each week, useful nutrition information, as well as basic cooking techniques. Field trips to the Grow Dat Youth Farm and Rouses Supermarket allowed students to see where their food comes from and how to shop for healthy food.

“Ochsner recently did a survey of ninth graders at Bonnabel High School and found that more than one-third of the students prepare meals for their families but also said they didn’t know how to cook,” said Avery Corenswet, Vice President of Community Outreach with Ochsner. “Our goal was to create a program that equipped these students with the knowledge and the skills to prepare their own healthy, homemade meals.”
Chef Alon was instrumental to the development of the program curriculum, said Corenswet. His involvement in the program comes from a personal passion.

“I have a strong belief that every person should do something extra to positively impact their community,” said Shaya. “I’ve chosen to do that through my love of cooking and teaching. I always enjoy working with children and inspiring them to work with their hands and be creative with food.

“I was impacted at an early age the same way and it changed my life for the better. Many people in our community are disconnected with their food and how it sets the tone for their health and quality of life. If I can inspire one child to eat healthier and/or find their passion in life, I will have achieved a milestone in my own life.”