Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy has acclaimed chef serve healthy lunch for 2nd graders

Veggie-U and Eddie Merlot's serve up lunch at CHCA

CINCINNATI -- Eddie Merlot's has partnered with the Veggie-U program to teach kids at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy about nutrition -- in a fresh and tasty new way.

We’ve all heard the debates over healthy lunches in schools across the country, year after year.

Before healthy lunch acts were passed in 2010, the statistics were startling: One in every three 8-year-olds in Ohio were obese. Ohio ranked fourth in the nation for percentage of overweight high school students and half of Ohio residents, in general, were expected to be overweight by 2018, according to PEW .

Some schools dropped out of the healthier new federal lunch program, complaining that so many students turned up their noses at healthy meals that the cafeterias were losing money. But not Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy -- they rose the bar for healthy food education.

The 2nd graders at CHCA feasted on a succulent autumn-themed meal prepared by none other than Eddie Merlot’s executive chef Bryan Hopping for lunch Wednesday.

The upscale restaurant chain has partnered with the Veggie-U program to teach kids about proper nutrition and the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

Veggie-U  is a non-profit organization out of Milan, Ohio at the Culinary Vegetable Institute. They are dedicated to combating childhood obesity, raising awareness of healthy food options as well as the importance of sustainable agriculture and supplies classrooms across the country with garden kits.

The visit from chef Hopping was the “celebration feast” culminating the kids’ plant unit, which the “Veggie U” program took to a new level this year. Classroom garden kits from Veggie U provide core concepts for plant science, mixing education and experience. 

With money from a fundraiser, Eddie Merlot’s chose CHCA to receive 5 classroom garden kits, which contained grow lights, different types of seeds and soils, different vegetable seeds, as well as worms for a worm farm.

“It expanded and enhanced their understanding of the origin of the food we eat daily and encouraged them to expand their horizons in terms of tasting new foods,” said CHCA teacher Susan Simmons.

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Gathered in the cafeteria of CHCA, the 7 and 8-year-olds listened to chef Hopping talking about the value of vegetables and answering their questions.

“What does pumpkin pie taste like,” asked Samantha. But I'll be back to her in a moment. 

On the lunch menu today -- ratatouille, roasted pumpkin seeds and carrot cake.

Young Pedro gave an approving smile after a bite of the pumpkin seeds. “They taste like peanuts,” he said.


Glancing around the cafeteria, it seems most kids were pleasantly surprised at how good veggies can taste.

Which leads me back to Samantha now. She stared at her plate very skeptical, stirring her food while still wondering what pumpkin pie tastes like. It figures, she is MY daughter.

Samantha, you’ll never know unless you try.  

Are your schools serving healthy lunches?

Federal law passed in 2010 under the Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act or Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act improves the meals served in schools, which feeds more than 32 million children each day. The legislation based on recommendations from the Institute of Medicine, the new school meals include these changes: 

  • More whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; low-fat milk dairy products; and less sodium and fat. The right portion.
  • Menus are planned for grades K-5, 6-8 and 9-12 and will demonstrate to your child the right size portions. Additional funding will be made available to schools that meet the new standards.
  • Schools will be reimbursed an additional 6 cents for each lunch they serve in accordance with the new standards.

First Lady Michelle Obama has challenged schools across the nation to raise the bar -- literally. Michelle and The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity have endorsed schools across America to add 6,000 salad bars through the Let's Move project. 

Both academic research and actual experience in schools across the country are increasingly demonstrating that children significantly increase their consumption of fruits and vegetables when given a variety of choices in a school fruit and vegetable salad bar.

Research says that kids consume 50 percent of their daily food in school -- encourage your children to check out the healthy food options in their school!

To find out how Veggie U can help your child in the classroom and cafeteria, visit their website at Veggie U


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