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Asheville event to benefit children healthy cooking program



9/12/2011 - Asheville event to benefit children healthy cooking program
by Carol Motsinger - Asheville Citizen Times

Kids and healthy eating - and making our schools the showcase for learning how!

ASHEVILLE -- It's a job requirement for Kate Justen to forget things.

When she leads hands-on group cooking programs for local students, she'll sometimes forget a key ingredient, tool or even the recipe itself -- on purpose.

Justen, the director of FEAST -- the name stands for Fresh, Easy, Affordable, Sustainable and Tasty -- aims for the experience in the classroom to mirror the real life situations and problems the young chefs will need to be able to address in their home kitchen.

So when she "forgot" the noodles for the planned pasta dish one afternoon, the students used bread, which they did have on hand, to make bruschetta.

"We want them to have that kind of thinking -- what do I have in my kitchen that I can make that's good."

That teaching trick aside, Justen needs more supplies and support. Since FEAST was started in 2009 by Slow Foods Asheville, the free hands-on cooking classes are more in demand than ever, Justen said.

And the price tag of about $100-150 that comes with each one-hour class adds up quickly.

Because of increasing interest from area schools and after-school programs, Slow Foods Asheville is hosting its first ever large fundraiser for FEAST, 6-9 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Venue.

The benefit, dubbed Feasting for FEAST, features food from almost a dozen Asheville restaurants.

Justen, who currently hosts programming at Asheville Middle School and at the Pisgah View Apartments Community Center, will provide FEAST cooking demonstrations during the event.

FEAST for fun

FEAST focuses on childhood and family nutrition. But don't expect for Justen to use those kinds of words with her students.

"Those are great words for adults," she said. "We go about it a less direct way; we want for cooking to be about fun and learning."

"The main goal is to make cooking and eating fresh foods a daily part of (the children's) lives," she said. "We want it to be routine. It's not a different thing, it's just how they eat."

In addition to teaching kids how to make healthy food choices, the programs teach core skills involving math, science and communication, Justen said. "We teach a lot of things that work with the curriculum. It's a very big benefit for the school."

For Slow Food Asheville, FEAST has become the "epitome of the mission here," said Slow Food Asheville president Tia Maria Bednar.

The nonprofit is dedicated to promoting and preserving the local food culture, and restoring the meal as a social event.

FEAST has helped Slow Foods Asheville to focus on helping people from all parts of the community get access to healthy, local food. It shouldn't be reserved for the privileged, Bednar said.

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