This summer, after being motivated by First Lady Michelle Obama’s Lets Move! campaign, Chef Raquel Rivera-Pablo began teaming with schools throughout the New York City area. Ever since she attended a White House South Lawn event for chefs like her, Pablo was inspired to chart her own Chefs Move to Schools experience.
To start, she reached out to schools and quickly partnered with elementary school Public School (PS) 11. The school participates in a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program that sells crops in their own student-run farmers markets. Since the school coordinator was hoping the children could gain even greater familiarity with the crops they grew, the match with Chef Pablo could not have been better timed. In the partnership, she gives hands-on cooking classes based on healthy recipes designed from the students’ own crops. As expected, the children absolutely love it and cherish her weekly visits.
She began her journey by sharing her expertise through cooking classes at PS 11. Then in September, she started training for the Wellness in the Schools program (WITS). In her own words, “As a WITS in Residence, I have signed on to the task of training public school cafeteria workers on returning back to slow cooking. The project involves staying at a school for a whole year and upon my leaving the cafeteria staff should feel comfortable continuing the newly placed menus.”
She was then matched with PS 53 in the Bronx with a kitchen that has no actual stove, but relies on a kettle, a steamer, and warmer. She officially started September 27 and has embraced the challenge ever since. “Although some changes have been made over the years–like the availability of low fat milk -there is so much more that needs changing. I am doing this for the children. That in itself makes it all worthwhile, fun, exciting and a blessing. I hope to continue to share my love for food with the kids at PS 53 for as long as I can, whether it be me personally or the spirit I leave behind to the cafeteria workers who will hopefully continue to prepare the same healthier meals with the love and integrity that the children have learned to appreciate.”
Raquel Rivera-Pablo is truly an inspiring chef.