MS. REBECCA SHEIR
We move now from the medical lab to the kitchen. If you've dabbled in the culinary arts, then you know they can involve more than a bit of trial and error, but what about when you're trying to experiment on a really tight budget? Well, Chef Alli Sosna is teaching children how to do just that. This Monday in D.C.'s Shaw neighborhood, Chef Sosna is kicking off an after-school program called MicroGreens. It's designed to teach students how to prepare delicious family meals on a food-stamp budget.
MS. REBECCA SHEIR
The Chef recently met up with Emily Friedman at Target, Sosna's grocery store of choice to discuss the trial and error involved in eating healthy without breaking the bank.
MS. EMILY FRIEDMAN
So where did the idea come from to start MicroGreens?
CHEF ALLI SOSNA
So over the last four years, I was working with D.C. Central Kitchen, which is a local non-profit. I saw that a lot of the kids would like fruits and vegetables, but then when they got home there's a big disconnect in budget restraints, time and culinary education, just basic know-how. And I wanted to figure out a way to lessen that gap, which would inevitably also make kids more healthy, increase family time and just make people more aware of their health.
Can you talk a little bit more about why kids weren't eating fruits and vegetables at home?
It's easier for folks across the United States to get a hamburger from McDonalds or go to 7-Eleven or whatever and get very high saturated, like, trans fats and processed foods, right. And so the ability to cook and the time it takes to cook was just kind of weeded out.
How did your partnership begin with DCPS?
So DCPS has been great with the outreach that they wanna do in their schools. And the principal at Shaw Middle School was great. And he just said, please, come teach my kids more about food. And just very, very excited about the program. So we're gonna launch there October 15.
So why sixth grade? Why is that the optimum time to teach a kid what to eat and how to cook it?
I mean, the earlier the better, of course, with food education, but we chose sixth graders because they're at an age where they're responsible enough to go home and to cook for the family if they need to. I've found that this age group is--between fifth, sixth and seventh grade they're very open-minded. They're willing to learn. We have an hour a week with these kids, myself, with six other fellows, which are the volunteers that help me teach the kids. And we teach them the recipe of the day.
So the second day--the first day's gonna be knife skills, learning how to hold a knife, proper kitchen etiquette. The second week we go right into trussing a chicken. They cook the meals within the hour and then they go home with food to feed a family of four.
So how do you do a SNAP budget for a family?
In D.C. the most amount of money that you can get for a family of four, about $167 per month, or $668 per month for a family of four is the max that you can get. The average meal that we do is tops, $3.50.
Okay. So let's talk about one meal that you teach.
So we're gonna cook a pork ragu. With all of our proteins, whether they're chicken, fish or pork, you have to work with a large quantity and you have to make three meals out of it. And that is the only way to get the protein to be at the price point that you need to make your budget, right. And there's a brown rice bag that is five pounds. And it's $3.29. You always want to get brown rice because it's literally five cents more than the white rice per serving, but you get significant amounts of nutrients from the brown rice because it's not bleached.3
And then we'll do an onion, we do one onion, but we buy our onions by the bag. Then we do one cup of frozen peppers. And this is important going into the winter season. I live off a ton of frozen vegetables. And when you buy about a one pound bag, which is your standard frozen bag of vegetables in the grocery store, when you do one cup of peppers, it's only 25 cents.
So I have -- maybe it's a misconception, but, like, I have this idea in my mind that frozen vegetables aren't as nutritious as fresh vegetables. Is that true?
Not at all. Frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh vegetables, you just have to know how to cook them. On a SNAP budget it's very, very hard to have, like, say the My Plate example where you have X amount of greens, X amount of fruit, X amount of milk, X amount of whole grains because it doesn't allow for that. And that's the bigger problem, is that I can't go and fill myself up on SNAP budget, tons of fruits and vegetables. I can't. And so right now you have to make sure that that extra and that majority of your plate is a good ingredient.
What are the other things that you just can't have on this budget?
Butter, whether it's salted or unsalted. You don't buy gum. You don't buy any mostly sugar-based items. And so I don't have a ton of money to go buy that Nutella or the processed already made salsa. Like I have to figure out how to make it.
I mean, people on SNAP do buy this stuff.
And then they're left with no money halfway through the month. Or there is promotions going on, right. So if you buy one, you get one free. And really what we teach the kids is, are you full? When are you full? Recognize your body. It's not calorie based, it's not fat based, it's not a nutritional, it must meet this standard. It's recognizing how when you put something in your body, how it affects your body.
Chef Alli Sosna, thank you so much for hanging out with me at Target.
You can follow the progress of MicroGreens as Chef Sosna kicks off her pilot program. We have links on our website, MetroConnection.org.
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