300x6001.jpgThe NY Coalition for Healthy School Food is this year’s charity partner at the New York City Vegetarian Food Festival. The Coalition is dedicated to bringing healthier meals to schoolchildren. Storytelling, craft projects, a musical jam session, and animal petting opportunities are just some of the kid-friendly offerings on tap at the Festival, to take place 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., March 1-2, at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan.

The Coalition was founded in 2004 via a bipartisan New York State legislative resolution which asked schools to offer plant-based entrees as a healthy option in their cafeterias. It suggested that the schools also provide nutrition education with information on multi-cultural and plant-based eating patterns, and to promote farm-to-school programs as well.

A star-studded pantheon of celebrities and medical professionals climbed aboard the bandwagon, and the group took off. Today its advisory board contains such luminaries as T. Colin Campbell (professor emeritus of nutritional biochemistry at Cornell University and author of The China Study), Dr. Mehmet Oz (director of the Cardiovascular Institute at Columbia University), and Dr. Joel Fuhrman (author of Disease Proof Your Child and Eat to Live).

One of its first projects was a partnership with the Future Leaders Institute Charter School in Harlem. Food was prepared by a chef from Candle 79, New York City’s #1 Zagat-rated vegetarian restaurant. Lo and behold, the students gobbled up the healthy, plant-based meals. The Coalition also sponsored a Family Dinner Night when all of the people living in the students’ households were invited to the school for a free dinner, a cooking demonstration, and a nutrition lesson. More than 400 people attended.

The group’s ongoing program, called Cool School Food, carries on this idea in a number of schools in New York City and Ithaca. Businesses and other organizations are invited to develop, test, and implement made-from-scratch, international recipes in school cafeterias. Then the new meals are introduced to the students in conjunction with fun events.

For example, in Ithaca, students are enjoying Chinese golden croquettes with orange ginger sauce, and North African red lentils, among other delicacies. Healthy snacks are also on the Coalition’s menu, a la Amelia Bedelia’s Bodacious Berry Bowl and Curious George’s Banana Pop.

The Coalition’s linkage with the NYC Vegetarian Food Festival is a new endeavor. Organizers intend to capture the attention of young minds at the Kumquat Kids Area with a variety of activities:

· A mother-daughter duo, Lori and Hay Carscadden, will read stories and help children do coloring and collage projects on animal themes.

· Ro Narbe and Heather Soyring, from Finger Lakes Adopt-A-Grey, will share a selection of children’s books about greyhounds. There will be two live greyhounds on hand for families to “meet and greet.”

· Beauty queen Acacia Courtney (Miss New York City 2013) will read the story Dave Loves Chickens, about an outer space monster who can’t understand what human earthlings eat.

· Michelle Weinstein will facilitate the making of elephant crafts and will hand out elephant comic/coloring books.

· Lisa Revelli will make animal masks with the children, and will teach them about farm animals.

· TLB Music will host a music-making session where children can play small instruments, meet big instruments like the trumpet and the violin, and learn fun facts about animals.

· Christina Burke will offer face-painting using vegan paint, and Dianna Mohammed will provide manicures using eco-friendly Hopscotch Kids nail polish.

Throughout the weekend, the Coalition will have plenty of free literature for children and their parents to pick up. Further information about the NY Coalition for Healthy School Food can be found at http://www.healthyschoolfood.org/.

In addition to the children’s programming, the New York City Vegetarian Food Festival will present adult lectures, cooking demos, musical entertainment, and more than 100 vendors showcasing vegan products. Admission tickets can be purchased in advance at https://2014nycvegfoodfest.chirrpy.com/ or at the door. For additional information, visit http://nycvegfoodfest.com/

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