Thursday, May 7, 2009

Help Your School and Get Healthy: Volunteer!

If you are a parent with a child (or two) in public school you should know the importance of being involved with your child's school. Since our son has been in pre-k (now kindergarten) my wife and I have helped out in many ways. We like to use our interests, skills and knowledge in art, music and food to help out. As a parent there are so many ways to use your own expertise to help out. Or perhaps start something that you have been interested in doing but have never had the opportunity. Everyone wins that way. If every parent in a school gave just a little time throughout the school year the school would be that much more enriched. Especially in these tough economic times.

A good example of getting active with your child's school in a way that uses a skill and interest that one has is the subject of an interview I conducted with Stacey Bucovy, whom I met at my son's school PS 10. Stacey Bucovy was owner/chef of Fresh Dish Catering Company for 12 years up until her son Marc was 1 year old. He's 6 now and has a 3 year old sister, Jacqueline. Now she is self-described personal chef to the Bucovy family plus chauffeur, house cleaner, personal assistant and active PTA member. Stacey discusses Healthy Steps Committee that she has co-founded. Among the events that this committee organized is coming next week and open to the public, celebrity Chef Dan Barber who will talk about sustainable seafood.

1. Tell me a little bit about Healthy Steps Committee and what inspired you to help start it at PS 10?
The Healthy Steps committee was started as a way to add to the dialogue on the issues of children's health and nutrition. I believe that there is an actual mandate to have a committee like this in every school and we chose to do it here to fill the void.
2. What are the short term and long term goals of the committee?

In terms of short and long term goals I think we did things a little backwards. We started off with a bang with the Health expo and the lecture series but we probably should have built up a little more familiarity with a newsletter and a couple of school time events. One idea we have is to do a lunchroom project where students interview each other about what they like to eat, what they are having for lunch, etc. and then to post this information up on a big bulletin board so that they can read their responses. Our long term goal is to involve students, teachers and parents in fun and informative activities about health and nutrition.
3. Jane Brody, personal health columnist for the NY Times and best selling author recently spoke at PS 10 how did you book her to speak and what did she discuss?
Jane Brody is an acquaintance from the YMCA. She lives in Brooklyn so I asked her if she would speak. Her topic that evening was how to feed your kids healthfully in this fast-food, take-out world. She did a great job. She told the audience how she raised her children. Her advice was simple, which is easy to forget how to be these days. Make food in batches and eat it over 2 or 3 days or freeze it; don't buy packaged cakes, cookies or chips or you will eat them; decrease a child's high fat diet gradually, for example blend whole milk with 1% milk and when your child becomes accustomed to the new taste decrease the fat content again until you arrive at complete skim; if possible serve dinner after school if that's the time you can get him/her to eat most nutritiously; keep a bowl of fruit salad in the fridge to snack on. She had loads of good advice and she advised us to buy her cookbook for healthy recipes for quick breads.
4. The next speaker you have coming to the school is Dan Barber on Tuesday, May 12 at 6:00 pm. Tell me a little bit about Dan and what he will be discussing?
Dan Barber is a celebrity chef who co-owns the Blue Hill restaurant in NYC and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate NY. He is the east coasts answer to Alice Waters. At his farm upstate he grows all the produce and raises all the animals that are served in the restaurant. He will be speaking at P.S.10 about seafood. His lecture is entitled "Fishing...for the birds?" or the story of how one sustainable fishery changed Dan's view of seafood. Tell everyone you know to come.
5. Healthy Steps held it's first health expo in March (was it March?), were you pleased with the results and what was accomplished?
I was very pleased with the results of the Health Expo. We had it in March to celebrate National Nutrition Month. It completely confirmed the idea that you can mix education with pleasure. From the gardening table where children planted sprouts that they could take home, to the fitness demos where they learned exercises, and at the food stations where children sampled exotic fruits and learned fun facts about them. We also had nurses there to answer any health question you might have or to take your blood pressure. The Green committee participated with a wonderful exhibit and we also served dinner. I think we should have one every year.
6. Any advice for parents at other schools who may want to start a similar committee at their school?
I think that if you are concerned about the current obesity crisis and how huge food companies now have us addicted to sugar, salt and fat the school system is the best place to create a movement. You have the exact audience you need to reach out to and make positive change. You just have to approach the PTA with a plan.


  1. Great information here!

    I think schools are in for a big change. Out with the vending machines and fast food and in with a variety of colorful, healthy foods!

    Since I gave up sugar in 2008, I have researched schools, hospitals and other organizations that seem to be serving less than nutritious foods. In my research I found an interesting program at You may be interested to check them out. I am not related to them in any way, but I do think it's neat what this non-profit is doing in the schools.

    I will have to check out your baked goods, as I am always on the lookout for naturally sweetened treats.

    Great post!

  2. Thanks for reading my post. At this point I have one cookie that uses maple syrup and is vegan and wheat free. The rest of my current product line uses granulated sugar. I will be opening my own bakery in a few months and will expand my product line to include more vegan, naturally sweetened and gluten free baked goods if the demand calls for them.

    I do strongly believe that schools should limit access to foods with preservatives, high fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oil.