Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dinner with Happy Healthy Cooks

The invitation read, “As a way to give back, our students would like to make dinner for our supporters! The Happy Healthy Cooks at Grandin Court elementary school are excited to prepare and serve a meal to our greatest supporters...”

This past Wednesday, June 2nd, at the “venue” of Christ Lutheran Church at Grandin and Brandon, the atmosphere was like coming to a school recital. Excitable kids with proud parents and their friends awaited the “performance” soon to be presented. What was this all about?

If you’re a first-grader at Grandin Elementary School, you know all about this. There’s a wildly popular and very welcome new program put together recently by one of the parents, Heather Quintana, called Happy Healthy Cooks. She and a friend brought HHC to Grandin Elementary School last fall after realizing that the school lunch program offered at city schools left much to be desired. Donuts, Pop Tarts, Jelly on Biscuits… Children need something nutritious to help them grow physically and mentally. This menu, the two decided, just won’t do.

And so with 15 other volunteers, including some parents, Happy Healthy Cooks visit the first grade classrooms once a week to introduce children to healthy food choices in a way that would appeal to kids… they’re encouraged to assist in preparing the very meals they’ll be eating for lunch.

The program began last fall of 2009. Heather hopes to take the initiative further into the school system. (Maybe if we’re all lucky, this can go nationwide.) Already HHC has gotten great press in Roanoke, including a continuing guest spot with the daytime talk show, Our Blue Ridge, on WSLS-TV.

But nothing made the class and their fearless leader more proud than the dinner that was given by the children last Wednesday to HHC’s biggest fans (the parents) and supporters.

“Three classes of first-graders, about 60 kids, showed up after school around 4:30PM to prepare the food for tonight’s meals,” said one parent, Dawn Stein. “It was a lot of work.” Dawn has a step son in the class, and she’s a volunteer with Happy Healthy Cooks. She was also one of the ten volunteers who came that night to help serve the meals.

Another parent, who sat across from me at one table, told me that each child was asked to bring one parent. “They got to choose which parent,” she explained.

What was really nice was that many of those parents were Dads who came to have a meal prepared by their own kids, and to show their support for HHC.

The dinner began at 6PM, with Heather introducing some slideshows and talking a little about the program, seeming very obviously excited and happy to have made this initial progress towards a worthy goal. Our fun and tasty celebration meal consisted of Caribbean Red Beans and Rice, Three Sisters Casserole, a vegetable salad, and an eye-catching, colorful shish kebob of cubed fruit pieces. Everyone received a program to take home with the recipes of the evening included.

Many congrats to Heather and all her volunteers! Thanks for a great dinner and for bringing this much-needed program to the school kids. Star City Fame wishes HHC wider success. Long Live Happy Healthy Cooks!

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