MS. REBECCA SHEIR
One of the people trying to help kids like Rachel and Saquonte is Ally Sosna. We met the D.C.-based chef back in October 2012, when she was starting Microgreens, an after-school program to teach middle-schoolers how to buy and prepare food on a budget.
CHEF ALLI SOSNA
I saw that a lot of the kids would like fruits and vegetables, but then, when they got home, there was a big disconnect in budget restraints.
Now, that Microgreens is done for the year, Emily Berman headed back to D.C.'s Shaw Middle School to find out how it went.
MS. EMILY BERMAN
For the last Microgreens class of the year, Alli Sosna decided the best way to test what her students had learned was to throw them into a high stakes culinary competition. There are four stations set up in the cafeteria kitchen at Shaw Middle School, with four students and one teacher at each station. One group is slicing carrots, another butchering a whole chicken, the other searing a chicken breast and the last, portioning off how much of each ingredient goes into one serving of chicken stir-fry. Not the portion you'd order in a restaurant, the amount you can have on food stamps.
MS. EMILY BERMAN
Sewit Seyoum is methodically separating a chicken leg from the body. Seyoum is a tall, thin eighth grader and the chef's knife is about as big as her forearm. Yet, when she's cutting, she's in complete control.
MISS SEWIT SEYOUM
It's been very worth my time. I've learned how to make a lot of green vegetables and how to cut a chicken. I think they've taught me a lot.
Alyse Krauss supervises the butchers in training. She's also a chef and has been volunteering to help with hands-on instruction.
CHEF ALYSE KRAUSS
These kids love to chop carrots, will fight over who gets to chop the last carrot on the table. And I think that's been really surprising to see how enthusiastic and challenged they are by what's going on.
Over at the searing station, four students are gathered around a stovetop full of skillets.
Hi, my name is Nikira, 7th grade.
Nikira's mother, Joy Hicks-Parker, is standing a few feet away, proudly watching her daughter check her chicken for proper browning, the signal it's time to flip.
MS. JOY HICKS-PARKER
She's more helpful in the kitchen, ideas and, Mommy, you should do this and Mommy, you should do that.
They're working together on some new recipes and talking more about food choices. Ally Sosna says, that's exactly the outcome she wants.
So they're helping out, they're shopping more and that's the whole point, is just awareness, cooking awareness.
However, Sosna admits this first class was a bit of a reality check when it comes to the attention span of middle-schoolers.
If cell phones were not allowed in school that would be huge for us.
The class size will also go down from 16 to 12 kids. Microgreens' next round of classes will be in March and April. And Sosna's expanding from one to three D.C. public middle schools. And the program is starting to catch national attention.
The other cool thing that happened was Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, N.J. did SNAP, like $27 per week.
SNAP, of course, is the program known to many people as food stamps. During that week, Alli Sosna wrote an op-ed for Huffington Post with advice for Mayor Booker on how to stretch that money out. His office saw it and reached out.
And he retweeted and he got excited about it. He read it and his office contacted me about doing Microgreens in their city for spring.
Sosna will kick off the Newark program herself and rely on volunteer fellows to lead the program in D.C. By next fall she expects to be in Pennsylvania and Delaware as well.
The students put their knives down, as the competition comes to a close. Sosna has asked Chef Nate Anda of the soon-to-be-opened Red Apron Butchery to come in and choose the winner of each category. The winners each get a big prize, a set of knives or a pizza stone. And after the cooking is wrapped up they all get a big bowl full of stir-fry to eat. Durell (sp?) Chase is digging into the steamed veggies, brown rice and bake chicken.
MR. DURELL CHASE
It's pretty good in my opinion.
And with reviews like that, Alli Sosna is hoping this culinary crash course will be enough to kick start a lifetime of smart shopping and healthy eating. I'm Emily Berman.
To read Alli Sosna's article, "The Top Ten Ingredients for a Healthy SNAP Diet," and to learn more about Microgreens, visit our website metroconnection.org.
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