By: Belinda Chiu, guest blogger

Unlike many of the amazing volunteer chefs at Operation FrontLine, I am not a trained chef. I am not a professional cook. But I love to cook, love to eat, and love raising awareness about healthy eating and cooking with children. So two months ago, I found myself being the Volunteer Chef for a Kids Up Front class at Forest View Elementary School.

For six weeks, I worked with an incredible team, including the nutritionist Jennifer Hale who is expecting her own little “kid up front” any day now. I was so impressed not only with the expertise of my fellow instructors, but also how thoughtful and committed they were. With a natural ability to connect with our students, Jennifer made the complicated nutritional pyramid fun and understandable.

Of course, without the students, there would be no OFL. We started out with 8 girls and 2 boys and mid-point, it was just the ladies remaining due to scheduling conflicts. Nonetheless, the all-female class forged ahead.

The students were all fourth graders, and some of the brightest, sweetest, spunkiest young ladies I have met. They were all deeply engaged and curious and wanted to learn. Many were gourmands-in the-making, already sous chefs at home with sophisticated palates.

One interesting foodstuff they all seem to have a taste for are Takis. Call me old or ignorant, but I had no ideas what Takis are. I finally gathered that these were spicy corn chips made up of who knows what. Coming from the perspective on encouraging healthy, whole, local, fresh foods…Takis hasn’t quite entered into my pantry. But these students sure loved them.

So how to get young people away from the addictive taste of additive-filled “corn chips” to fresh fruits and vegetables as snacks? Make them cook!

Week by week, we followed this wonderful curriculum and learned about the major food groups. We made black bean tacos and pretzels-from-scratch and vegetable soup. Yes, VEGETABLE soup. Despite initial complaints about those greens, wouldn’t you know it – the vegetable soup they made? They ate every last drop.

How did that happen?

Well, these young women learned some critical knife skills (“the claw!”), how to chop, how to read recipes. They learned how to say different foods in five languages: apple (English), manzana (Spanish), apfel (German), pomme (French), ping guo (Cantonese). They learned how to multiple by doubling recipes and how to improvise when we messed up – which we did several times.

They become in charge of their own learning and their own health – and they dared to try all sorts of new foods. They learned how their foods is tied to their health (this class, for some reason, was obsessed with Vitamin D and where and how to get it. I have no idea why).

And by Week Five, when we asked them what they had for snacks, all the girls named some kind of fruit. Including bananas, which I learned along with my students, is NOT technically a fruit. A banana is an herb! Fruit or herb, these young culinary artists took ownership of their learning, taught me that I still have much to learn, and are proof that learning happens everywhere and that learning can be – and should be – fun.

Takis was mentioned by no one.


By: Elizabeth Stahl, Communication Intern

Recently, I was fortunate enough to attend an Operation Frontline class taught at St. Augustine College.  Attending the first class of the series, I was excited to witness the enthusiasm of the teens and to experience a class for myself.  IFFS intern Whitney Hlubik opened the class with nutrition facts and information on the food pyramid.  Learning that I need more veggies in my diet, the class also taught me that people commonly overlook the grains portion of the food pyramid as well as the vegetable servings.

The class then moved to a cooking demonstration, where the teens could experience first hand how to prepare “Tex-Mex Skillet” to add to either soft-shell tacos or tortilla chips.  Chef Nick reviewed basic knife skills when dicing fresh, local tomatoes, peppers, and onions for the meal.  Instead of using ground beef, the class opted for lean ground turkey instead, a more health-conscious choice. Most of the teens had never tasted parsley before, some were hesitant to add it to their tacos but in the end the majority of them enjoyed the healthy addition.   Once everything was prepared the teens got to sit and enjoy while discussing how they can prepare this meal and similar meals for themselves at home.  The food was delicious;  you should try to make the “Tex-Mex Skillet” for yourself- I know I will!

1. Make sure to thoroughly cook the turkey, adding salt and pepper to taste.

2. Make sure to carefully cut peppers, tomatoes, and onions.

**The OFL class even used some fresh veggies from the IFFS farm which provides fresh fruits and vegetables to community members in need.

3.  Once meat is browned, begin sauteing the veggies!

4. Add black beans and corn to the turkey and vegetables.  Stir everything together adding seasoning.

5.  Once everything is cooked, sprinkle with fresh tomatoes.  Enjoy over tortilla chips or in a whole-grain soft tacos.  Adding fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, and sour cream is optional.

A big thanks to the students for letting me join them, and also to Whitney and Amanda!

Join Earth Fare on Friday evening from 6pm-9pm  for a wine tasting and kick off your weekend! 10% of the sales will benefit Inter-Faith Food Shuttle and our efforts to drive hunger from the community.

Earth Fare

Brierdale Shopping Center

10341 Moncreiffe Road

Raleigh, NC 27617

We have some great opportunities coming up in Wake and Durham Counties for you to lead our OFL classes as Instructors teaching kids and families how to cook healthy and tasty meals!

Below upcoming classes are listed along with positions that need to be filled. Send us an email (operationfrontline@foodshuttle.org) or give us a call (919-250-0043) if you are interested in being a part of a class. If you have not had orientation yet and are interested in being involved with a class listed below please let us know.

Power of Eating Right @ W.E.B Dubois, Wake County

150-A North White Street, Wake Forest, NC, 27587

Wednesdays, 10am-12pm, June 16th-July 21st

Positions Needed: Chef, Nutritionist, Class Manager, Class Assistant, Food Runner

Kids Up Front @ Campus Hills, Durham County

2000 S. Alston Avenue Durham

Mondays, 10am-12pm, June 14th-July 25th (Except July 5th)

Positions Needed: Chef, Nutritionist, Class Manager, Class Assistant, Food Runner

Power of Eating Right @ Alexander YMCA, Wake County

Classes held at St. Augustine’s College

Wednesdays, time 10am-12pm, June 23rd-August 4th

Positions Needed: Chef, Nutritionist, Class Manager, Class Assistant, Food Runner

Power of Eating Right @ SEEDS, Durham County

706 Gilbert Street Durham

Wednesdays, 11am-1pm, June 30th-August 11th (Except July 21st)

Positions Needed: Chef, Nutritionist, Class Manager, Class Assistant, Food Runner

Power of Eating Right @ Alliance Medical Ministries, Wake County

101 Donald Ross Dr, Raleigh

Thursdays, 3:30pm-5:30pm, June 17th-July 22nd

Positions Needed: Class Manager (with a strong Nutrition background), Class Assistant, Food Runner

There will be a Team meeting for the class held one afternoon next week (June 7th-June 11th).  Once we know the teams and availability, we will be emailing you about a meeting time.  The Team meeting allows you to meet who you are going to be working with and allows us to briefly go over the curriculum for the class.  Plus we give you tools to assist with teaching the class.

The following is a blog post from Operation Frontline volunteer and Y Combs Elementary class assistant, Jo Sharples. Her experiences with Operation Frontline and Plant A Row for the Hungry are valued.  Jo’s dedication to these programs is inspiring the OFL students to continue learning the value of nutrition while helping the community.

A Parent’s Perspective

I recently volunteered as class assistant for a 6 week Kids Up Front class. I feel motivated to share my experience because I was so impressed with the quality of the program and believe it had a positive impact on my own life, as well as the lives of the participants.

I decided to volunteer for Operation Frontline, as I strongly believe that kids should be educated about nutrition and the benefits of healthy food choices. I wanted to help this worthy cause and in the process hoped to learn practical ways to go about changing my own kids eating behavior. I am a mother of 2 fussy eaters, aged 9 and 5. Although I eat healthily and buy a variety of fruits and vegetables, my 5-year-old son especially refuses to eat them.

I was impressed by the high standard of the course material and the professionalism of the volunteer Chef (Maria) and Nutritionist (Tonya). I loved the hands on approach, teaching kids to cook. It was encouraging to see 9-11 year old kids using sharp chef’s knives and cooking at the stove. I had never thought of letting my daughter do more than stir with a wooden spoon. So as the weeks progressed I began letting her chop a variety of vegetables and get involved in cooking at home. She really loved it and I realized that I need to be more organized about involving her regularly.

The highlight of the class for me was observing how the kids tried everything and had 2nd, sometimes 3rd, helpings of healthy food. I think it was proof that if you get kids involved in the cooking process they will be more willing to try to eat new foods. Particularly memorable was the smoothie made from frozen berries, almond milk and LOTS of spinach leaves. Chef Maria named it Zombie Blood, which went down well with this age group. Despite protesting about the spinach, the kids all tried it and many came back for more!

As part of the course, the kids get to plant snow pea seeds to take home and nurture. I enjoyed sharing my own gardening experience… Just recently my kids and myself have started volunteering at a community garden in Apex, and growing our own vegetables and fruit at home (tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots, onions, zucchini, mixed greens, strawberries, melon, and a variety of culinary herbs.).

I have also taken on the task of introducing an edible garden at my kid’s elementary school, supported by the PTA. We now have 6 raised beds, built by local scout groups, and my intention is that the teachers will be able to use this as a hands on resource – to connect with nature and learn about healthier eating. We plan to donate any food grown to the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle Plant a Row program, to raise awareness of child hunger in Wake county. This edible garden can therefore link to curriculum goals in social studies, science and healthful living. During the class, we talked about the availability of fresh produce grown at local farms and the environmental impact of buying food transported across county or imported from abroad.

I hope that the kids in this class share their knowledge with their parents and use the recipes in the take home booklets.  My experience supporting the Kids Up Front class reinforced that the keys to changing kids eating behavior are: educating kids (and their parents) about nutrition and healthy food choices; exposing kids (and parents) to new healthy foods or foods that they are familiar with prepared in a novel or healthier way; getting kids (and parents) interested in growing fruit and vegetables at home, school or at a community garden; teaching basic cooking skills to develop confidence in the kitchen; and sitting to eat a (home) cooked meal together. I would love to see this program offered in all schools and look forward to volunteering again soon.

The following is a blog from NC State student Holly Starks. It is the 5th in a series of 6 posts she will be writing chronicling her experience as a Nutrition Instructor for a OFL Class she is teaching. If you haven’t already, read the 1st Wee 1st Weekk, 2nd Week, 3rd Week, 4th Week and 5th Week. Holly is teaching OFL as part of a Service Learning Class that has teamed up North Carolina State Students with the Inter Faith Food Shuttle’sOFL/Nutrition Program. Through this partnership, the Food Shuttle and NC State hope to engage students in service learning and community nutrition while expanding the reach of its OFL program.

Graduation Potluck!

This past Tuesday, April 27th, was the final class of our Side by Side six week course. At the beginning of class while the parents filled out a few surveys, Sara led the kids in a MyPyramid game. She showed pictures of different foods and asked for them to name the foods and then choose which food groups they belong in. After the surveys were completed, the families were challenged by a review game. The parents were asked questions from cooking, nutrition, and gardening lessons. If they answered a question correctly their child was allowed to move to the next space on our “life-size” game board. At the end of the game the families were tied and we had a lighting round to determine the winner. Felicia answered the question correctly, and she and her daughter Ali were announced the winners.

Following the game was the graduation celebration. The families were awarded their certificates for completing the course and were given graduation gifts that included a reusable grocery bag, a cutting board, a water bottle, and an adjustable measuring spoon. We also celebrated the completion of the class with a potluck. The families brought in a food item of their choice that reflected the knowledge they had gained from the class. Felicia and Ali brought in a black bean dip which contained Velveta cheese and orange bell peppers. Geneva and Dorian brought in chicken salad sandwiches on whole grain flat bread. The chicken salad had light mayonnaise and was topped with cherry tomatoes and romaine lettuce. Tamika and Tristina brought in turkey meatballs that also had mixed vegetables on the inside. Sara, our chef, brought in pumpkin muffins for the class to try. Everyone agreed that all of the recipes were delicious. The families were especially surprised about how tasty the muffins were when Sara explained that they did not contain any butter and were made using low-fat yogurt. “Wow! These are really good for not having any butter,” Tamika added. Following her comment Geneva asked, “You can use sweet potato instead of pumpkin, right?” Avram, our gardener, confirmed:

Yes, you can. It can help to save money when pumpkins aren’t in season.”

Sweet potatoes are in season all year long in North Carolina, which means that they are very affordable, especially when compared to foods that are not in season.

If you are interested in trying the pumpkin muffins with your family too, see the recipe below. We hope that you enjoyed hearing about our class. Keep a look out for new upcoming OFL classes!

The following is a blog from NC State student Holly Starks. It is the 5th in a series of 6 posts she will be writing chronicling her experience as a Nutrition Instructor for a OFL Class she is teaching. If you haven’t already, read the 1st Week2nd Week3rd Week and 4th Week. Holly is teaching OFL as part of a Service Learning Class that has teamed up North Carolina State Students with the Inter Faith Food Shuttle’sOFL/Nutrition Program. Through this partnership, the Food Shuttle and NC State hope to engage students in service learning and community nutrition while expanding the reach of its OFL program.

This past Tuesday, our Side by Side class at the Crosby Head Start Center discussed the importance of physical activity as a part of living healthy lives. The participants shared what physical activities they like to do as family such as going to the park or playing games. Being active together can provide fun, quality time with the family while also serving as a motivation factor to help each other stay active. As the families pointed out, exercising together doesn’t have to be in a gym but can be something simple like playing Simon Says, hopscotch, or Red Light Green Light.

Along with being active, I also pointed out the importance of staying hydrated throughout the day. The families learned about healthy, affordable drink options that can replace sodas or sugary drinks such as water, reduced-fat milk, and 100 percent juices. The families were able to try some healthy, alternative drink options through a taste test activity. They first tried tap water that they flavored with their choice of lemon, lime or both. As a class, we discussed how tap water is free and safe, and can be flavored with numerous things like fruits, cucumbers or mint. Next, the families tried “fruit sodas” which was a combination of seltzer water and 100 percent juice. “Mmmm,” Dorian exclaimed. Dorian, one of the kids in the class gulped down the soda happily. The rest of the class also agreed with Dorian that the fruit sodas were good. I told the class that fruit sodas are a great and fun way to reduce calories from 100 percent juices, which can have higher calorie content due to sugars.

Lastly, the families tried smoothies that were made using mangos and oranges. The families shared different fruits that they would use for their own smoothies as I pointed out how smoothies can be a good way to get nutrients we all need through fruits and dairy that are incorporated into them. Avram also pointed out that a small amount of vegetables like spinach can be easily added into smoothies to add nutrients, but do not alter the flavor of the smoothie.

While talking about drinks, we also discussed the importance of choosing low-fat milk products and the nutritious benefits that we get from consuming milk. Whole milk is higher in fat, especially saturated fat and cholesterol, which can both contribute to the risk for chronic diseases like heart disease. The instructors told the parents that skim milk is a great alternative because it does not have any fat and is lower in calories, sugars, and cholesterol. The participants were hesitant about switching to skim milk because they were afraid it would taste too watery. We encouraged the families to at least try skim milk and see if they like it. Luckily, we had some skim milk from our orange oatmeal pancake recipes that we made during the cooking lesson. At the end of class, one of our participants, Tamika, agreed to try the skim milk. “Hmm, it’s not bad,” she paused after a sip “Actually, I think I’ll try some more.” Tamika was pleasantly surprised that she liked the skim milk and we offered to let her take the rest of the milk home to let her family try it as well.

Next week the families will be graduating! Join us for our last week to hear about what the families have learned from the class as well as the fun activities they will get to do in celebrating the completion of the course.