Culinary corps will transform policy goals into rapid action
*Updates: The LATEST is here; more at bottom of post
The White House will be filled with an All Volunteer Army of Chefs on June 4, when First Lady Michelle Obama officially launches the new Chefs Move to Schools program. It's the latest project for the Let's Move! campaign, and hundreds of chefs from across America are expected to join Mrs. Obama for a big South Lawn kick-off event.
The new initiative, announced by both Mrs. Obama and Food Initiative Coordinator Sam Kass on May 13, calls on America's chefs to get involved with Let's Move! by adopting their local schools to give nutrition advice and cooking tips to school officials, parents, and kids. The chefs and other culinary professionals who sign on will also be helping schools create healthy menus for school meal programs.
"We are going to need everyone’s time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic and our Nation’s chefs have tremendous power as leaders on this issue because of their deep knowledge of food and nutrition and their standing in the community," Mrs. Obama said, when launching the new initiative.
Calling all chefs...
The White House has done outreach to America's premiere culinary professional groups to round up the unique new culinary corps, including the IACP, the American Culinary Federation, and the National Restaurant Association.
Improving school lunch and breakfast programs is one of the pillars of the Let's Move! campaign, and Chefs Move to Schools gives some of the policy goals outlined in the Childhood Obesity Task Force Report, which Mrs. Obama unveiled two weeks ago, an immediate practical solution by sending culinary professionals into the field to offer expertise and advice. The program is being run by USDA, and a spokesperson for the East Wing said an advisory board, led by Kass, is being created. Share Our Strength has also been advising.
The White House has invited many guest chefs to campus in the last year, and has had an overwhelmingly positive response.
The most recent event in which a group of chefs gathered on the South Lawn was for the Healthy Kids Fair, last Fall. Food Network's Ellie Krieger, Chicago chef Koren Grieveson of Avec (newly anointed with a James Beard Award), Todd Gray of DC's Equinox, Art Smith of Art & Soul, and chefs from the School Nutrition Association joined Mrs. Obama and the White House chefs to demonstrate how to create budget-savvy healthy school meals using ingredients already available in the federal nutrition programs. Many other culinary pros have been guest chefs for special events, including at the two Easter Egg Rolls, the two State Dinners of the administration, and for special receptions. (Above: Mrs. Obama during the Healthy Kids Fair, with Exectuve pastry Chef Bill Yosses (l), Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Executive Chef Cris Comerford, and Kass; local school kids watch the cooking demo)
Updates: Share Our Strength will host a special breakfast for the chefs on the morning of the launch. American Culinary Federation is sending 55 Top Toques for the launch. A cadre of chefs from Houston has been invited to the White House. Chicago has sent in a big contingent of chefs, as has the International Association of Culinary Professionals.
*For chefs interested in joining the Chefs Move to Schools campaign, there's a form to fill out here on USDA's website, and a form here for interested schools; pairings will be made at the local level. There's more information about the campaign here, on the Let's Move! website.
*The White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity Report is available here [PDF].
Photos: Top by Reuters; Mrs. Obama with chefs by Obama Foodorama