By Judith Smith-Meyer for Foodbank of Santa Barbara County | February 14, 2020 | 9:00 a.m.

The Foodbank of Santa Barbara County is expanding its award-winning Children’s Health Initiative, a series of programs collectively called Feed the Future, with a new Food Creativity Lab (FCL). A pilot program begins Feb. 25 at Dos Pueblos High School.

During four, free monthly sessions, high school students will explore the nutritional and health value of a variety of foods, engage in hands-on cooking, learn to plan and budget for meals, and practice food photography.

Participants are being invited and will self-enroll in response to a video campaign via DP News, a weekly student-created news program shown in all Dos Pueblos classrooms.

Three FCL faculty members, each of whom will teach at every session, include Lacey Baldiviez, Foodbank nutritional biologist and director of community education; chef Troy Peterson of Merci Montecito; and Sansum Clinic registered dietician Christina Archer, a member of the bariatric (weight-loss) surgery team.

“The Food Creativity Lab engages young adult students through their own natural curiosity and desire to express their creativity,” said Baldiviez. “We are excited to help students build a deep connection with foods in their most basic, natural state through the lenses of sensory experience, cooking skills, and the fascinating effects food has on our bodies.

“Students will walk away with the tools they need to making healthy eating decisions in a variety of life circumstances, particularly when facing limitations in terms of time, money, and resources.”

With wisdom gained from the pilot program, the Foodbank plans to host Food Creativity Labs at all area high schools in coming years.

Recipes and lessons in the first session may include chicken parmesan with zoodles (veggie spirals instead of pasta); portion size/control; the role of fats in taste and health; and using seasonings to best health and taste effect.

The FCL is part of a countywide expansion of the Foodbank’s education programs for youth, through which the organization aims to end hunger by empowering and equipping children with skills they need to eat healthfully on any budget.

As they move into adulthood, children’s skills learned now can positively affect future generations, too. Immediate impact from these programs can reach across generations when students take home fresh produce, new food knowledge and recipes to share with parents and grandparents.

From January to May, the Foodbank will expand its existing children’s programs countywide, increasing service to youth in Carpinteria, Santa Barbara, Goleta, Isla Vista, Lompoc, Santa Maria, Cuyama and Guadalupe.

Food Literacy in Preschool (FLIP) will grow by 80 percent, with the addition of four new locations. FLIP introduces low-income preschoolers to a Farmers Pick fruit or veggie each month, with curriculum that includes picture book read-aloud, experiential learning and tasting.

Children take home a bag of the featured produce item with bilingual nutrition information and recipes to share with family.

Two new sites of the Kids Farmers Market (KFM) program will result in an eight percent increase. KFM provides K-6 students with nutrition education and basic cooking skills, with recipes like salads, slaws, cabbage tacos, salsas, and fruit parfaits, also featuring the Farmers Pick produce item of the month.

Following their cooking and nutrition lesson, participants shop at a free mini-farmers market, which includes several produce items; and take home about 8 pounds of produce, along with recipes for the foods they prepared and ate during class.

Kids Farmers Market will take place at 28 locations and serve more than 1,800 unduplicated children throughout the county during the current school year.

KFM is offered in partnership with after-school programs at Santa Maria Bonita, Goleta Union and Santa Barbara Unified school districts; Boys & Girls Clubs in Santa Maria, Lompoc, Goleta, Carpinteria and Santa Barbara; Chumash Learning Center in Santa Ynez; People’s Self-Help Housing; and Housing Authority of the City of Santa Barbara.

Farmers Picks for the 2019-20 school year are: October, apples; November, grapes; January, mandarins; February, broccoli; March, pears; April, tomatoes; May, strawberries. Additionally, as of this year, all FLIP and KFM programs will use exclusively compostable plates, cups and utensils.

Teens Love Cooking (TLC) will see a 150 percent increase with the addition of six new locations this year. TLC is the Foodbank’s middle-school program that includes more complex nutrition curriculum and advanced cooking skills, including safe knife practices and heat cooking methods.

TLC students participate in seven weekly classes in which they learn about various aspects of nutrition (good fats, protein sources, etc.) and prepare a different cooked dish as part of a group. Dishes include culturally diverse recipes from Colombian lentils with rice to ratatouille to veggie chicken stir-fry.

At the last class session, students prepare a family fiesta to share what they have learned with loved ones.

All of the Foodbank’s children’s programs are taught by volunteer nutrition educators who are trained in curriculum from the Foodbank.

For more about the Foodbank of Santa Barbara County visit

Foodbank of Santa Barbara County Cooks Up High School Food Creativity Lab | School Zone

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