"Chef in the Garden" teaches kids how to cook healthy food in the Bronx

BRONX, New York (WABC) -- Eyewitness News got a firsthand look at a free summertime series in the Bronx designed to teach kids and the community about healthy eating.

"Chef in the Garden" is in its second year and takes place monthly at noon from June-September in the Garden of Eden, a longtime urban garden in the South Bronx at 1664 Weeks Avenue.

For decades, the Garden of Eden has provided fresh, healthy food to a part of the Bronx often described as a "fresh food desert."

Then last year, The BronxCare Health System approached the garden about hosting a free teaching series to promote healthy eating.

"This is great because you know that obesity is a problem in our community in the Bronx. About 35% of our children are overweight or obese and we need to teach them healthy eating and healthy life styles," said Dr. Cynthia Lewis, Chief of the Division of Adolescent Medicine, Pediatrics at the BronxCare Health System.

The hands-on cooking demonstration is sponsored by the BronxCare Health System, which also provides health professionals such as Dr. Lewis onsite to offer the community free advice and tips.

"We bring them in here to show them, 'Hey, I know McDonald's is down the block, but come in here and we'll give you a fresh piece of lettuce,'" said Arlington Malone, who helps run the 'Garden of Eden' and hosts the event. "Coming from the South Bronx, we don't have a lot of those healthier options available. We can't find the fresh fruit. So we give that option to the community."

In June, several dozen kids participating in Bronx daycare programs crowded into the garden to learn how to make a watermelon salad with feta, onions, olives and fresh mint.

The kids were able to help cut and mix the salad and then try it.

"Once you familiarize kids with certain foods, then they become much more receptive to eating them, and then they start making their own healthy food choices," said Colombe Jacobson, a natural foods chef leading Thursday's demonstration. "You make it fun, you make it delicious, and then all of a sudden, it's not a struggle to get them to eat healthy."

Future opportunities to participate in the Chef in Garden series include: July 25, August 22, and September 26, all at noon inside the Garden of Eden.

The salad recipe in this feature is as follows:

Ingredients:
- 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 seedless watermelon (cut into 1 inch pieces)
- 1/2 lb. feta cheese crumbled
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, roughly chopped
- 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves coarsely chopped

Directions:
1. In a large bowl, whisk the fresh lemon justice olive oil, sea salt and pepper.
2. Add the feta, olives and onions and toss.
3. Using a melon baller, scoop out a small vessel on the top of the watermelon cubes.
4. Scoop the feta, olive and onion mixture into the watermelon cups.
5. Serve topped with the fresh herbs.

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