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Let's Move launches program connecting chefs with schools

(June 1, 2010 - The Packer)—A new program from Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign and the U.S. Department of Agriculture aims to get chefs in the classroom.

The program, Chefs Move to Schools, charges chefs with helping schools in their areas that are looking for help to create more healthful, better tasting school meals.

Announced mid-May, the program is scheduled to officially launch June 4 at an event on the South Lawn at the White House.

Hundreds of chefs from around the country have been invited to the White House for the kick-off event, according to media reports.

Since May 13, Let’s Move has been reaching out  to chefs through organizations and associations — including the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the American Culinary Federation and the National Restaurant Association — and putting together a group for the launch at the White House.

One of those chefs is Adrienne Saldivar-Meier, who works with Healthy Eating Lifestyle Principles (HELP), a nonprofit organization funded in part by several Monterey County, Calif., produce companies.

HELP was founded by the Grower Shipper Association of Central California, Salinas.

“We saw this announcement and just knew we had to get chef Adrienne to the White House,” Suzanne DuVerrier, executive director of HELP, said in a news release. “HELP’s mission and the Chefs Move to Schools’ mission (are) totally in line.”

The group already has been working with schools in its area, and Saldaviar-Meier has already been a part of chef demonstrations and activities.

“I was so excited, because we’ve been doing this concept for four years, to hear it could happen on a national scale,” said Gina Nucci, president of the board for HELP and director of foodservice marketing for Mann Packing Co., Salinas.

June 1, just three days before her Washington, D.C., appearance, Saldaviar-Meier hosted an after-school cooking demonstration at Monterey Park Elementary School, Salinas.

The chef has also appeared in public service announcements aired on Salinas-area TV stations that teach viewers how to use specific produce items, like snap peas, Nucci said, in addition to her in-person appearances.

She has done contract work with Mann Packing to appear at trade shows, including the Produce Marketing Association’s Fresh Summit, as well as with Ocean Mist Farms for retail cooking demonstrations and recipe development, according to the release.

Interested chefs and schools can sign up to be part of Chefs Move to Schools on the USDA’s Web site.

Chefs that sign up are promised step-by-step guides to engaging with kids, teachers, parents and administrators, as well as additional information and suggestions on getting started, according to the USDA’s site.

by Ashley Bentley

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