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You Are What You Eat: Philly Students Learn About Nutrition


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How healthy are your dietary habits? Increasingly, statistics are showing that the meals we eat are having an adverse effect on national health trends -- and the fight to reverse it begins in the classroom.

Three years ago, studies found that the percentage of overweight children and adolescents in the U.S. has nearly tripled since the early 1970s.

The repercussions of these effects are far-reaching. The academic support organization Donors Choose has reported links between childhood obesity and diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, and poor academic performance.

Efforts to stem the tide of childhood obesity gained national exposure early in the 2010s with the launch of the Let's Move program, an overall plan to "raise a healthier generation of kids" pioneered by First Lady Michelle Obama.


On the Home Front

At the forefront of the push to promote the availability of healthier food to Philadelphia students is The Vetri Foundation for Children, a local nonprofit dedicated to "[helping] kids experience the connection between healthy eating and healthy living."

Founded by the critically renowned chef Marc Vetri and food service executive Jeff Benjamin, the organization accomplishes this mission through a variety of progressive programs.

These programs include Eatiquette, which aims to provide healthy school lunches for participating Philadelphia schools, and Building 21, a facility at the Free Library of Philadelphia's Culinary Literacy Center offering culinary classes instructed by Marc Vetri.

Notably, The Vetri Foundation has now partnered with My Daughter's Kitchen to teach Philadelphia school students how to cook their own healthful meals at home.

My Daughter's Kitchen was established in 2012 by Maureen Fitzgerald, food editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer, when she taught its first class at St. Martin de Porres in North Philadelphia. Together with Vetri, the program expanded to four additional schools in the 2013-2014 school year.

The classes show students how to prepare full meals, from start to finish, using only the most nutritionally valuable ingredients on a modest budget. With public support, Vetri and My Daughter's Kitchen hope to continue to expand, giving this opportunity to all primary school students in the Philadelphia area.

Our readers are encouraged to learn more and to contribute to The Vetri Foundation here.

By Bessam Idani

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