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Inspired by First Lady, Chef Pablo Does the Same for New York Students

Posted by Kenneth Sierra, USDA Food & Nutrition Service, Northeast Region in Food and Nutrition Initiatives
Feb 21, 2017

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.

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Jared Finkelstein
Dec 06, 2010

Chef Rivera-Pablo is changing the lives of those students she is working with. Bravo. I have seen the impact school gardens and the use of the garden bounty by the students can have. My company, Teich Garden Systems, designs and installs raised bed garden systems around the country primarily for schools.

Keep up the good work and hopefully others will be inspired by your efforts.

Jared Finkelstein
Teich Garden Systems