Thursday is Food Day, a national celebration that encourages the use of healthy, affordable and sustainably produced foods.
When Tenille Folk cooks for the Aspen Elementary and Middle schools, every day is a food day. Folk and her staff prepare everything from scratch with a goal of serving their students fresh, healthy foods.
She also teaches a cooking class every Wednesday that the students call “Cooking Club,” which helps kids learn to make their own meals and educate them as to what is healthy and what isn’t.
“We don’t serve pre-made, processed foods,” Folk said. “We can control the fat, sugar and salt contents of what we make.”
What Folk can’t control is the food some kids bring to school with them, which isn’t always the healthiest. She’s been looking for ways to increase food awareness within her district, and celebrating Food Day is one way to do just that.
The vision of Food Day is to change the attitudes people have concerning food. It encourages people to eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains and proteins from animals that were raised in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Food Day also raises awareness to what isn’t healthy, like sugar drinks, salty packaged foods and fatty, factory-farmed meats.
According to the Food Day website, the typical American diet is contributing to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other health problems. Those problems cost Americans more than $150 billion per year. Plus, a meat-heavy diet takes a terrible toll on the environment.
“Food Day has been going on for several years,” Folk said. “I’ve read a lot about it, and this is the first year our scheduling allows us to take part in the celebration. I wanted to have a day where all the students could try some delicious, healthy foods.”
Folk coordinated her Food Day celebrations at the elementary and middle schools and made sure both events are free of charge. Both schools will serve regular lunches with special guest chefs and volunteers helping prepare and serve samples of local items.
The elementary school will feature tasting samples that will be brought around the lunchroom and offered to all students beginning at 11 a.m.
Chef Jaime Theriot from Smoke Modern BBQ restaurant in Basalt will serve macaroni and cheese. There also will be Rock Bottom Ranch-raised lamb meatballs, processed by Crystal River Meats and prepared by chef Jason Smith, who also is the director of the Rock Bottom Ranch.
At the middle school, there will be tasting stations set up at which any student can sample foods beginning at 11:55 a.m. There will be samples from the Avalanche Cheese Co., fresh-pressed apple cider using apples from Paonia and salad prepared by local chef Randy Placeres. Smith also will be serving lamb meatballs at the middle school.
For Folk, Food Day is not just a one-day event; she’s hoping it’s a yearlong catalyst for healthier diets and a better food system for all the students and their families.