April 12, 2024

'Beat the Chef' contest encourages School 54 kids to cook healthy food

Melissa Stankevich, Senior Program Manager of Pennsylvania for Common Threads (middle), said School 54 students used the organizations “Small Bites” curriculum to learn about making healthy snack and other foods. - Elizabeth Gabriel/Side Effects Public Media

Melissa Stankevich, Senior Program Manager of Pennsylvania for Common Threads (middle), said School 54 students used the organizations “Small Bites” curriculum to learn about making healthy snack and other foods.

Elizabeth Gabriel/Side Effects Public Media

On the near east side of Indianapolis, Brookside School 54 students squared off in a competition against a chef on Thursday to see who could make the tastiest nutritious snack.

It’s part of a partnership between the Indianapolis Public Schools district and insurance company Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to provide cooking and nutrition education. 

Over roughly ten weeks, eight classes at the K-6 school have participated in culinary programming provided by Common Threads, a national nutrition education nonprofit. A community school coordinator with the John H. Boner Community Center was trained by Common Threads, then taught students how to make nutritious snacks and other foods. 

On Thursday, the grade levels participated in a 'Beat the Chef' competition against Common Threads’ chef Jared Batson to see who could make the tastiest nutritious snack.

A group of judges, including Indiana Fever basketball guard Lexie Hull and School 54 Principal Jeremy Baugh, took samples from each class before voting in multiple categories, including best snack and best snack name. 

Beth Keyser, president of Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield in Indiana, said programs and events like these not only allow kids to taste healthy snacks, but to crave them and build healthy habits. 

“What we’ve seen is that nine out of the ten families that are on food assistance are still struggling to get healthy, nutritious food into their homes,” Keyser said.
 


The near east side community continues to struggle with food insecurity. In recent years, the area has only had one fully-functioning grocery store, making it difficult for families to access nutritious meals. But healthy food advocates hope student and parent nutrition classes, as well as a local food pantry, will help turn that around.  

The program is a continuation of Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s previous work with School 54. In 2022, the health insurance provider funded a community-wide food pantry and produce garden at School 54, which provided more than 80,000 pounds of food and 3,000 hours of education. 

Now iHeartIMPACT, a division of iHeartMedia, is working with Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield to provide a series of nutrition education programs in six schools across Los Angeles, New York, Atlanta and Indianapolis to address food insecurity and promote healthy lifestyles.

School 54 Principal Jeremy Baugh said the program has helped families. 

“It’s not always easy to get fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy foods,” Baugh said in a speech to the students. “Because of our food pantry and people like chef Jared and Common Threads and the Indiana Fever who provided some resources, and Anthem who supports that, we’ve been able to create an amazing environment.”

The Common Threads program has ended at School 54 for this school year, but it’ll resume in the summer and fall. The groups hope to expand to other Indianapolis schools over the next few years

Contact WFYI’s health reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org

Side Effects Public Media is a health reporting collaboration based at WFYI in Indianapolis. We partner with NPR stations across the Midwest and surrounding areas — including KBIA and KCUR in Missouri, Iowa Public Radio, Ideastream in Ohio and WFPL in Kentucky.

 

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