2014-04-04

By Adam Aronovitz, Education Director and Co-Founder at The Cookbook Project

As I stood in the bright cafeteria at Blackstone Elementary School watching ecstatic 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders investigating the geographical origins of tomatoes, chili peppers, and cucumbers, I realized I was watching a dream come true.  I traveled around the world for the past five years on a mission to solve the greatest public health crisis on earth. Across Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia, I lead health education programs with communities at-risk for obesity, diabetes, and other lifestyle-related chronic diseases. However, standing in my home city I realized the most important programming was happening right in my own backyard.

My name is Adam Aronovitz and I am the Education Director and Co-Founder of The Cookbook Project (CBP), a global health education non-profit based in Boston. That afternoon at the Blackstone was particularly inspiring because the roots of CBP began to flourish when I was a teacher in the Boston Public Schools. Many of my students in East Boston had recently emigrated to the U.S. Their families made incredible sacrifices to come here, leaving their homes, families, and businesses behind to come to this country.  They were also leaving behind their food culture.

When they arrived in the U.S. they adopted the standard American diet, which is largely comprised of processed foods, animal proteins that are high in cholesterol (only found in animal foods) and saturated fats.

Food Consumption in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, unhealthy eating and inactivity causes between 300,000 and 580,000 deaths every year, which is almost equal to the number of annual deaths caused by tobacco.

I believe education, food literacy, and cooking skills represent the central path to sustainable health. Alissa Bilfield, fellow CBP Co-Founder, and I built a multidisciplinary health and cooking education experiential curriculum and launched programs as The Cookbook Project.

The most important thing I’ve realized between then and now is that a successful health educator does not need to be an expert in nutrition! Anyone has the capacity to learn how to implement this curriculum in their communities or even in their own homes to get youth excited about cooking healthy food and taking charge of their own health. That’s why I was so thrilled to see City Year Boston’s National Grid team serving at the Blackstone implementing the curriculum with a diverse group of students.

To date, we have trained 400 local leaders as Food Educators in 35 states, and 20 countries on 6 continents to implement the CBP curriculum in their own communities!  Students leave CBP workshops feeling empowered to start creating edible masterpieces in their own kitchen. Data from our pilot Curriculum Impact Study has shown that students participating in CBP programming are: 

  • eating more fruits and vegetables and whole grains,
  • eating less added sugar and processed food,
  • eating more home-cooked meals, 
  • drinking more water,
  • exercising more,
  • sleeping better,
  • better able to focus in school.

We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to pilot a program with City Year Boston this winter and see CBP programs in the Boston Public Schools with amazing support from the Barbara Lynch Foundation. We invite any and all City Year and AmeriCorps members (and interested parents/community leaders) across the country to apply to become Food Educators today and change the world, one meal at a time!

Please visit our website for more information about joining our global movement!

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