DSCN10981-300x225By Tina Dirmann

staff writer for BCBS of Louisiana Foundation

If you told me the makings for a great tasting smoothie included a scoop of beets and a touch of goat cheese, I probably would’ve told you your taste buds are outta whack!

But trust me when I tell you that theroast beet and mango smoothie Chef Eric Arceneaux of the American Culinary Federation  blended up last week was nothing short of delicious, well, like I said, trust me. It was. (And for this round, he used goat cheese to replace the typical yogurt blend).

And if you don’t trust me, take it from the some 100 kids, all students at Capitol Middle School, who gleefully drank up the unusual icy treat.

“The goat cheese gave it a little kick and that surprised the kids,” said Lyndsi Lambert, grant coordinator for Fresh Beginnings, a $1 million Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana grant sponsored initiative. “But it was really awesome. The kids were engaged from start to finish, asking questions and having fun.”

DSCN11081-300x180Lambert’s referring to Chefs Outreach to the Community Day, held Oct 23 at the Red Stick Mobile Farmers Market, in honor of Healthy BR Food Week(Oct. 18 – Oct. 24). The week included a series of community events aimed at promoting healthy eating habits, like a free movie screening of the foodie documentary A Place at the Table, a farm to table fundraiser (SlowFoodBR.org) and public cooking demos (like the one helmed by Chef Eric).

“The kids were just amazing,”Arceneaux said. “I came in thinking I was going to teach these kids something, change their world. But they knew about a lot of the things I wanted to teach them. I thought the bottom was a lot further than it really was. And that’s very reassuring.”

But according to Lambert, the kids did, indeed, learn plenty from Arceneaux, and his pal Chef Don Bergeron (Don Bergeron Enterprises). The team put set up several stations, each with a different lesson plan: vegetable taste test (station one), discovering whole grains (station two), drink smart (station three); grow a garden (station four). And packed into each station? All kinds of foodie knowledge, from the amount of sugar in a single soft drink to how to eat new foods (quinoa) to tricks for sneaking healthy foods into yummy eats. They tried curried hummus, satsumas, pomegranate, persimmons, and brightly-colored sticky rice.

DSCN10751-300x209“They seemed especially impressed by the different color rice grains, purple, blue and gold,” Lambert said. “They were joking that they want to use the purple and gold to make LSU rice!”

The day was a joint community effort.Baton Rouge Herb Society donated herb seeds for the students to plant and take home to nurture. Sysco donated the satsumas. East Baton Rouge Parish Library’s bookmobile was on hand to loan out books on healthy cooking and eating. And adding incentives to “get moving,” equipment from the mobile playground BREC on the Geaux (also a Challenge Grant sponsored program).

“The kids even got a chance to meet some of the farmers that supply the food for our farmers markets and learn more about how food is grown and ends up at our stores,” Lambert said.

Healthy BR Food Week, also sponsored by the Mayor’s Healthy BR initiative, was held in honor of National Food Day (Oct. 24).

DSCN11091-300x210“We wanted to use National Food Day as an opportunity to spotlight some of our great collaborations,” Lambert said, “while increasing awareness about healthy, affordable, sustainable food.”

Added Chef Eric, “It’s our responsibility to teach kids healthy choices. We can change this world one meal at a time. And I think we did some of that today.”

Changing the world one meal at a time… Words to live by, chef. Thanks for the lesson.