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Extension > Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners > What's Cookin' at Bruce Vento?


On this blog, we share regular updates about the Healthy Bodies, Healthy Minds, Healthy Learners partnership between Extension's Children, Youth & Family Consortium and Bruce Vento Elementary School.

Monday, January 4, 2016

What's Cookin' at Bruce Vento?

By: Judy Myers

Lotus root.
Imagine moving to a new country and visiting the market for groceries — nearly everything looks unfamiliar. What is opo squash or lotus root and how does one use either of these to cook for children more accustomed to macaroni and cheese? This is often the challenge for immigrant families, especially when they depend largely on food pantries or boxes of food from organizations such as Second Harvest Heartland.

So we held a team meeting with Bruce Vento social workers Marisa Biolo and Michael Carlson, school principal Scott Masini, assistant principal Fhonda Hicks, family liaison coordinator Cyndy McRae, U of M Extension educators Jennifer Ogren and Shirley Vang, and Rebecca Mino from Second Harvest.

We discussed how sometimes families either do not pick up available food boxes or throw away portions of the box because they do not know how to use the contents. To address this, we developed a four-month plan to provide food tastings, cooking demonstrations, cooking classes, and colorful cards with pictures and preparation suggestions of common fruits and vegetables typically found at Cub Foods.

In December, following the school’s annual cultural celebration, we invited families to sample corn chowder that Community Nutrition Educator Jennifer Ogren prepared using some of the ingredients that families would receive as part of their monthly food box from Second Harvest. Of the nearly 300 families in attendance, most adults and children were eager to sample the soup and took copies of the recipe. Beginning with the January food distribution at the school, Jennifer will provide cooking demonstrations based on the contents of the monthly food boxes. To help us provide classes that meet the specific needs of Bruce Vento families, we will ask care providers to complete a short survey about class times and child care needs.

With the beginning of a new year, the partnership with the school continues to grow and develop new layers. Moving forward, we plan to collect and document successes and lessons that may help to sustain and replicate this work.

If you want to learn more about the great work happening at Bruce Vento Elementary School and how you can be involved, check out our project website. And be sure to follow us on Twitter (@CYFCumn), and subscribe to our YouTube channel.


Healthy Minds, Healthy Bodies, Healthy Learners is an ongoing partnership between the Extension Children, Youth, and Family Consortium and the Bruce Vento Elementary School. Together, along with many other partners, we are developing engaging learning environments that promote student learning and wellness.

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