I attended an event at my old high school tonight, The Calhoun School. In several different conversations the talk turned to Chef Bobo, and the school’s meal program.
Calhoun was an exceptional school when I went there, many years ago. We had a beautiful new building to learn in, with open classrooms (the class areas were divided by partitions, not interior walls), and we had inspiring, innovative teachers who gave us an outstanding education. But we didn’t have Chef Bobo. He arrived at Calhoun in 2002 and transformed the way students ate, introducing fresh, healthy foods they loved so much they went home and told their parents (and brought recipes).
Tonight I met a mother of a second-grader who, while evidently an eager student, reports first on the foods she has tried that day; yesterday she ate cauliflower soup. Chef Bobo not only plans and serves delicious meals, he educates the kids about the foods they are eating.
A healthy diet, filled with fresh vegetables, fruit and locally (and humanely) raised animal products is vitally important to me; I despair at the fast food, junk food culture so prevalent today. To see a school turning that culture on its ear by winning over young minds (and stomachs) gives me hope. And while Calhoun is small, and a private school, Chef Bobo has consulted at several other schools, including a Bronx charter school, where one of Calhoun’s chefs now runs a similar program*.
Last summer, my cousin’s young children explored our vegetable garden. The oldest girl, Olivia, harvested—and devoured—a variety of vegetables. She ate so many carrots that she had pulled from the ground herself, her tongue turned orange. Thanks to their parents, the girls are adventurous eaters, interested in where their food comes from. They are lucky, as are the Calhoun kids…and hopefully countless others who might benefit from Chef Bobo’s vision.
*The New York Times wrote a piece on this May 10, 2011: “Bronx Charter Makes Eating Well Part of its Philosophy”.