On May 25, I again had the pleasure of joining Wellness in the Schools and New York School Food staff and interns to prepare food for Cafe Day. Both organizations work hard to bring healthier, balanced, and more whole foods to students throughout New York City.
Natural Gourmet partners with PS 89 in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn, and our Wellness in the Schools liaison there is one of our graduates, Chef Annie Morgan. Annie cooks 2 days a week at PS 89, and 3 days at another school nearby. I joined Annie in the morning on Cafe Day to help prepare the menu and was given free rein to make the day’s massaged kale salad.
Cafe Days are an opportunity for students to try newly developed menu items, attend “labs” about healthy eating, and to mingle with guest chefs as well as Wellness in the Schools and School Food interns. It’s also an opportunity for partners like Natural Gourmet to see the incredible work that goes on day-to-day.
PS 89, from everything I saw, is a happy, healthy place to be. The energy of the kitchen staff, the spotless kitchen, the students, the teachers, the cheery lunch room, the colorful salad bar are all disarmingly infectious (in a good way). Most importantly, the food served is of a quality and freshness not seen in most American schools in years, if ever.
In addition to the daily selection of salads, marinated chicken, roasted potatoes, herbed whole wheat flatbreads and fresh fruit, Cafe Day introduced 2 new items for tasting (as demo’d by Chef Annie) – pickled cucumbers and a salad of fresh corn and peppers in orange vinaigrette. The corn salad had the added benefit of using peppers grown in the school’s greenhouse. Yes, PS 89 has a beautiful state-of-the-art greenhouse growing herbs, vegetables, and tilapia. Thanks to a knowledgeable and proud student named Brittany, I got the VIP tour.
Wellness in the Schools currently focuses on schools with a 70% or higher poverty rate and is already serving over 20,000 students in NYC. With continued support, hopefully their imperative mission can extend to every school and student in the city.