Cooking Matter’s Chef Asata Reid pilots a produce program for underserved preschools
Several preschools have recently banded together to form a “farm to preschool” co-op, led by a partnership between Open Hand Atlanta and Common Market. Twice a month, Open Hand delivers fresh produce from the Common Market to participating preschools, along with educational materials.
Currently, the program is only in its pilot stage, providing a way for preschools—who often rely on frozen or canned goods—to affordably and easily access fresh fruits and veggies. To ensure the fresh foods are used, the program also works to ensure that each preschool has the tools and knowledge necessary to make use of their deliveries. Simply providing cutting board and knives to help with prep has led to in-classroom taste tests that have helped tremendously.
Chef Asata Reid, from Open Hand’s Cooking Matters team, is the visionary behind the program and is leading the charge. In these early days, she’s been the one to load up produces boxes and personally deliver them to the participating preschools. “This sort of program is really crucial to provide to younger populations who are still developing their palate and deciding what’s normal and what tastes good. It’s about helping them recognize what real food is and forming a positive relationship with it early on.”
Last month we provided a delivery of watermelon, and this month we’ve been delivering apples. Because we’re working with such young children, there are some that hadn’t tasted either of these fruits before. And so far, the response has been incredibly positive from program participants.
We’re hopeful to continue growing the program beyond the pilot phase, with more regular shipments of produce, and further opportunities to deepen nutrition education opportunities at the preschools. “It’s about showing children and their families what foods are good to reach for and what to do with them. That way, they’re less likely to struggle with nutrition-sensitive chronic illness later in life, and if they do, they are better equipped to manage them.”