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Earthfriendly Food Makes Earthfriendly Kids

Two children named Aja and Michael are hungry for vegetable snacks. Michael's favorite is broccoli and Aja loves carrots. Luckily, they are visiting their friend Rosa Brown, who lives on a farm, so they are able to go to her vegetable patch and pick fresh broccoli and carrots right out of the ground.

Aja, Michael and Rosa are characters in The Story of Broccoli and Carrots, a special story book prepared by EarthFriends, a group headquartered at Teachers College that promotes good nutrition and education while exploring with children, teachers and parents, "the whole story of food."

According to David Russo, director of EarthFriends, the "whole story of food" involves investigation, through discussions and hands-on activities, of "food from the beginning - how food comes from the earth through its end - when we dispose of leftover food, packaging and utensils."

EarthFriends makes contracts with school districts, schools and community-based organizations to provide a variety of services, including work with children in classrooms, programs for parents, staff development workshops for teachers, and field trips to local farmers' markets. "We're designed to meet the needs of a variety of supplemental education efforts," Russo said. "The whole story of food is engaging and fun. Food is a powerful educational tool partly because it is familiar to everybody."

Almost all EarthFriends services involve participants in the preparation of food. "If kids are engaged in hands-on food preparation, there seems to be a greater likelihood that they will at least try the food they have made," Russo said. Russo and other EarthFriends program developers Ronni Bowen, Jennifer Castle, and Pamela Koch, who are students in the TC Program in Nutrition and Education have worked with an initiative in Central Harlem to encourage healthier food behavior with pre-kindergarten children and their parents. They have even linked nutrition and environmental education with literacy education for four- to seven-year-olds and their parents. The objective is to improve children's literacy skills, and EarthFriends activities such as recipe reading, game playing with names and pictures of food and reading stories such as The Story of Broccoli and Carrots help achieve this outcome.

Particular emphasis is placed on activities that involve children and parents together. A favorite recipe with children, parents and teachers is the three-bean and vegetable chili dish, listed below.

For more information on EarthFriends, write Box 188 at Teachers College or call 212-678-3955.

3-Bean Chili

1 28-ounce can diced or chopped tomatoes
1 19-ounce can kidney beans
1 19-ounce can garbanzo beans
2 cups cooked green lentils
1 16-ounce can of corn
2 teaspoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 small onions
3 medium sized green peppers
1 tablespoon oil

1. Open all cans: kidney beans, garbanzo beans, tomatoes and corn. Drain the bulk of the liquid in the beans and all of the liquid from the corn. Keep a little of the liquid in the beans to add to the chili.

2. Chop the onion and green pepper into small, bite-sized pieces.

3. Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat.

4. Add the onions and saute for one minute.

5. Add the green peppers and saute for another four minutes or until tender.

6. Add chili powder and cumin to the vegetables and saute for another twenty seconds.

7. Add the corn, tomatoes and beans and pre-cooked green lentils.

8. Stir until warm, but don't let it get too hot to avoid burning your mouth.

9. Enjoy!!!previous page