Super foods superheroes

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Guest piece from TEDster Katy Klassman, via the TED Prize blog:

“I wish for your help to create a strong, sustainable movement to educate every child about food, inspire families tocook again and empower people everywhere to fight obesity.” –- Jamie Oliver

As I sat in the audience listening to Jamie Oliver make his wish, I had the same reaction that I did in 2008 when I heard this one:

“I wish that you — you personally and every creative individual and organization you know — will find a way to directly engage with a public school in your area, and that you’ll then tell the story of how you got involved, so thatwithin a year we have 1,000 examples of innovative public-private partnerships.”-Dave Eggers

On a mission to do something small that could have a big impact on kids who have a great desire to learn to write well through the exploration of something they think is cool, I decided to spend this summer doing my part to try and fulfill both wishes at the same time.

Partnering with 826CHI in Chicago, as I have for the past three years with the Travel the World Through Chocolate workshops, I created Super Foods Superheroes, a workshop that would band together the newest type of Superheroes: kids on a mission to make and eat healthy food! As a team they would learn recipes to share with their friends and family, learn the history of various Super Foods, how to use them in creative ways and eat their way through their own delicious adventure.

With my colleague and partner in TEDPrize wish fulfillment, Gabrielle Kammerer, we set about creating a curriculum that would explore the healthful possibilities at breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert (after all we work for THE most magnificent chocolate company in the world, Vosges Haut-Chocolat, so we couldn’t deny our troops the pleasure of a bit of dark chocolate.)

Along with fifteen curious Superheroes, we spent our Saturdays making yoghurt parfaits, gazpacho, tofu stir-frys (kids love a bit of fish sauce if you hide it!,) whole wheat pancakes, healthful quesadillas (you can add squash and lo and behold, they will eat that, too) and cabbage salad with black sesame seeds, amongst other sweet and savory delights.

The kids cooked, ate, and each week spent time writing.

They critiqued their own culinary capabilities and shared recipes:

Written by Skye, Fifth Grade

“I liked the guacamole best. It smelled and tasted really good. I also liked the quesadillas. They were cheesy, pardon my pun, and the squash was really good, plus it was an unique touch. In the guacamole, I like the distant dash of onion—it perfected it. The gazpacho wasn’t my favorite, but I liked how it tasted like natural flavors. Or at least how I thought natural flavors would taste. It reminded me of everything natural. I’ll definitely make it at home—I’ll make everything at home! For those who want to make something yummy, try the quesadillas!

They are made with…

*Whole grain tortillas

*Yellow and green squash

*A tiny bit of Chihuahua cheese

Grill the tortillas

Add the cheese and make sure to get the edges especially

Shred, grill and then add squash to the tortilla and cheese


For the guacamole…





*A dash of salt

Take avocados and put them in a bowl

Add chopped onions and chopped cilantro

Squeeze lime into the bowl

Mash with a spoon, or your hands

Enjoy in moderation, because avocado is only good in small amounts!”

This story and recipe, as well as the others will be made into a small chap book that will get sent to the participants in the class and sold in the 826CHI store to benefit the continuation of their exceptional programming.

We helped create chefs and authors this summer. Perhaps the future Jamie Oliver’s and Dave Eggers’ were in our midst.

We armed students with culinary triumphs that they can carry back to their friends and families.

We gave more, expected less and got it all back a million times over.

Maybe more importantly than any of this, we made one little girl, Joan, smile. Upon her arrival at 826, her mother told me that she “didn’t like anything” and it was pretty clear by the look on her face that she was none too jazzed about spending her summer Saturdays with us. But had you the opportunity to watch her read her writings in front of the group, dance the tango with abandon (a little dancing is always necessary even if it has nothing to do with Super Foods,) or heard her mother tell me that she wouldn’t let her turn the car around when they were an hour late because of a flooded out freeway, the assessment that she doesn’t like anything would have sounded like the finest fiction to have ever come out of 826.

Since I’ve been given this chance to share my project with the TED community, I’m going to take this big opportunity to tell you what I learned in 2008 after teaching my first 826 workshop and what I continue to believe: We all have the capacity to make both of these TEDPrize wishes come true and we should all want to. Each of us has an interest, culinary or otherwise, that can be shared at the local level, at your city’s 826 (if your city is fortunate to have one) or in your public schools. I’m taking my passions and passing them on and I’m going to keep trying to get others to join me. I’m counting on all of you TEDsters to keep both wishes going. If you need an incentive, look at Joan’s smile.