What's Cooking in the Red Rabbit Education Labs This Year!

Have you met Jennie Plewka, our incredible resident Food Educator? She's been having a blast this school year, visiting partners and hosing workshops all over New York.  We sat down with her to learn the latest in Nutrition Education!

Hello Jennie! Could you tell us a bit about what you do at Red Rabbit and with our school partners? 

I am Red Rabbit's Food Educator. I visit classrooms, community centers and summer camps throughout the five boroughs and upstate NY to teach Red Rabbit's whole food philosophy to children, parents, teachers and and school administrators. Our hands-on cooking labs encourage everyone to try new foods that may be unfamiliar by incorporating positive peer pressure that creates a buzz of excitement. Cooking labs create an environment that promotes meaningful conversations about lifelong eating habits. 
It sounds like there are several ways to introduce food in a classroom environment, but what if I want to cook with my child or take a lesson outside? 
Preparing meals together as a family can be a wonderful learning experience for everyone involved. Cooking incorporates so many valuable life skills including reading, math, science, cultural appreciation, patience.  Cooking with kids  also provides an opportunity to develop fine motor skills and sensory stimulation.
 One tip is to combine reading books with specific recipes that motivate their child's depending on their interests.
 For example, a friend of mine bought her three year old son a book about how to make pizza from scratch. He was eager to read it, and then they made a delicious pizza at home together. He chose all the veggie toppings and arranged t
hem beautifully like a rainbow. It was delicious, colorful  and nutritious.
What do you like best about visiting schools?
That's an easy one! I love to see a child try a new food and like it, and go back for a second bite. On many occasions, there are new found food favorites in each classroom I visit. I love encouraging kids to take a "food adventure" with me.
I know that you've been busy cooking and teaching all around New York City this school year -- what have been some of the best experiences so far? 
Ascend High School students exploration of New York City's food system was definitely one of my favorite labs to teach. I got to take my worms on a road trip to Brooklyn for a classroom demonstration on how to recycle food waste with worms, A.K.A. vermicomposting. Students were encouraged to get up close and personal with red wiggler worms, (Ensenia fetida). Many high school students admitted this was their first time holding a worm, and they connected with them immediately. One student even said "I'm gonna name my worm Beyoncé!" That was priceless for me.
Teaching Bite Size Labs at Aim High Academy has also been awesome! These are a 6 part series where we focus on plant parts and actually make a Red Rabbit recipe together. I love witnessing the enthusiasm of the children and staff  while eating together family style. This school is making nutritious food choices a priority for everyone!
What advice would you have for a parent or school teacher in dipping their toes into incorporating food into the classroom? 
Select simple recipes that have mostly whole food ingredients and minimal equipment. A "whole food" is a food that looks exactly the way nature made it. They are plant parts that we can eat. For example, carrots are roots, spinach is a leaf and cauliflower is a flower. Making conscious connections between nature and food engages a student's mind and body simultaneously. 
Other than that, use your hands! Often times, our hands are the best tools in the kitchen. For some inspiration, check out some of our popular recipes!
Interested in bringing an education lab to your program? Read more about our Food Labs to sign up!
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