Give Miami (Kale Pizza!) Day is Thursday, November 15

This time last year, Michael and Wellness in the Schools partnered with Broward County Food & Nutrition Services to introduce his Kale Pizza to the cafeteria, engaging its cooks in 10 Broward schools to train on the recipe and other new scratch-cooked dishes. With Kale Pizza set to officially launch on the line on December 3 (YES!), we are celebrating with activities to support the cause on Give Miami Day, Thursday, November 15, the largest city-wide annual day of fundraising.  Genuine Pizza will host students from McNicol Middle Magnet & STEM School in Hollywood for a pizza-making class.  Flagship Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink will also feature the Kale Pizza all day as a lunch and dinner special, with proceeds donated to Wellness in the Schools.

Chef leading a “Right on Target” cooking class last year benefitting Wellness in the Schools.

“When giving back tastes good too you know you’re doing something right and Wellness in the Schools has nailed the formula!” says Chef Schwartz. “We have so much fun working with the team locally and our Wellness in the Schools chef Leonor Azpurua. Seeing actual progress happen is not only rewarding but inspiring for me and my team at The Genuine Hospitality Group. The hard work is happening in cafeterias on a daily basis, so the little bit we can do to reach the kids by getting their hands doughy in our classroom makes it all worth it!”

Kale Pizza has been a longtime popular menu item at Harry’s Pizzeria, our original South Florida pizza joint and is now enjoyed daily at all five locations including Genuine Pizza in Aventura and Atlanta. Supporters can get involved by visiting wellnessintheschools.com where they can donate as part of Give Miami Day.

“I am blown away by the passion and dedication Chef Leonor has taken with our school and how much of an inspiration she is for the kids,” says Principal Gurreonero from McNicol Middle School. “It’s only the second year of the program, but Wellness in the Schools has earned great respect from their schools, and we’re so grateful to be involved.”

Follow along the journey behind the scenes on Instagram at @wellnessintheschools, @genuinepizza, @harryspizzeria@michaelsgenuine and @chefmschwartz, and #givemiamikalepizza.

Wellness in the Schools is Right on Target in Broward County Public Schools!

Like father, like son!  Class is always in session with Wellness in the Schools and last night was no exception at Wynwood Yard where we celebrated some important school year-end milestones with cooking class led by Chef and inspired by recipes from Genuine Pizza and Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink, with help from Harry Schwartz and TGHG culinary assistant Brandon Green.  The tireless team behind this cause close to our hearts in NYC and Miami reached this year’s goals with the Broward County Food & Nutrition Services including first annual Cook Camps.  This week they will train 10 new schools and their cafeteria staff on new menu items from local chef partners including:  Michael Schwartz Kale inspired Pizza, Clarke Bowen’s Black Bean and Plantain Quesadilla, Chef Aria’s Pesto Panini, Roasted Veggies from Chef Julie Frans, and Whole Foods Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes.

Back in October, when Chef launched the Kale Pizza at McNicol Middle School, he got to experience a day in the life of the cafeteria. Spending time with Ms. Naomi, the heartbeat of that kitchen, the students and watching them try a new food item such as Kale, made his day.   Every chef who participated in “Chefs Move to Broward” worked to generate excitement in the cafeteria, amongst the students and to get their recipe on the line!  Next year will only get better.  Amazing job as always by NYC founding leaders Nancy Easton and chef Bill Telepan and the team on the ground in Miami led by Allyce Perret-Gentil, our in-school chef partner Leonor Azpurua, and so many more.   As Michael says, they do all the work! We’re just humbled to be along for the ride.  Here are the recipes from last night’s festivities for your home use.

Let Them Eat Kale Pizza for World Food Day

Testing a few versions for the final recipe with WITS chef Laura Culbreth.

Today we bring Kale pizza out of the restaurant and into the cafeteria for World Food Day!  Our effort continues this new school year to support Wellness in the Schools’ work in South Florida to improve what’s on kid’s plates and educate them on healthy eating in the process.  Chef will visit McNicol Middle School in Hollywood at lunch to serve a made-from-scratch Kale Pizza recipe inspired by a menu favorite at Harry’s Pizzeria, sourced and approved by Broward County Public Schools’ Food & Nutrition services.  It’s amazing to know that whole wheat dough, caramelized onions and fresh kale will be on the line! Michael is the South Florida Chef Ambassador to the NYC based non-profit organization, now initiating “Wellness Chefs Move to Broward” after a successful launch last year.  We laid the groundwork for kid-approval too for this recipe, hosting WITS chef Chef Leonor Azpurua and her students at Harry’s Pizzeria in the Miami Design District for a field trip in the spring.  They were able to watch how our pizza is made from flour to table and hear from our kitchen team first-hand.  Chef Leonor said the kids enjoyed the Kale Pizza more than any other pizza they tried. “It was amazing watching the children asking for more kale, and then hearing about it on the bus ride home!”

McNicol approves of Harry’s.

Each month, a local chef will introduce a new scratch cooked menu item to the cafeteria, culminating in nine new healthy and delicious recipes for the Broward school lunch menu, kicking off today with Kale Pizza. WITS chefs in each school will prepare the pizza and train Broward cooks for continued implementation. Each month a new Chef Partner will launch one of their recipes. The goal is to bring serve new healthy restaurant style dishes meals to the children!  Thank you to our restaurant chef partners for their work, including Clark Bowen (Bistro Moderne), Aaron Brooks (Edge Steak & Bar), Julie Frans (Wynwood Yard), Aria Kagan (Whole Foods Market), and Chef Bill Telepan (Oceana, NYC).

Wellness in the Schools is a national non-profit that teaches kids healthy habits to learn and live better. They partner with public schools to provide nutrition and fitness education, healthy scratch-cooked meals and active recess periods. Trained culinary graduates partner with cafeteria staff to feed kids real food, and fitness coaches encourage schools to let kids play. Our approach improves student outcomes and drives systemic, long-term change, shifting school cultures and ultimately fighting the childhood obesity epidemic.

Follow along @harryspizzeria and @wellnessintheschools, one recipe at a time.

Shop & Eat Genuinely for Wellness in the Schools on Tuesday, January 10

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It’s a New Year’s Resolution that’s easy to get behind.  Shop at Miami-area Whole Foods Markets and dine at any of Michael’s Miami restaurants on Tuesday, January 10 to help kids eat better in South Florida Schools.

As we shared in October, Michael is the South Florida ambassador for Wellness in the Schools (WITS), a non profit dedicated to improving school lunch and educating kids about healthy eating.

As it enters South Florida for the first time this school year, the program is expanding upon a relationship with Whole Foods Market that began in New York City in order to generate awareness, further galvanize the community in support of this incredible cause, and raise essential funds to support its in-school work.

To that end, Whole Foods Market has committed to donate 5% of net day’s sales on Tuesday, January 10 from all six Miami stores (Pinecrest, Coral Gables, Downtown Miami, South Beach, North Miami, Aventura) to Wellness in the Schools. And we’re proud to share that Michael’s Genuine® Food & Drink, ella, Cypress Tavern, Harry’s Pizzeria® and Fi’lia at SLS Brickell will be doing the same!  Also on this 5% Day, Michael will be teaching a bean themed WITS Cooking Lab at the Coral Gables location, making vegetarian chili with students from Liberty City Elementary.

Fun times and good eating for all.  Every bite counts.  Let’s do this!  For more information, visit wellnessintheschools.org

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Celebrating Food Day by Welcoming Wellness in the Schools to Miami

Some of the gang today at lunch (from left to right) Stephanie Cardelle (Four Seasons Miami), Chef Clark Bowen (Chef, db Bistro Miami) Jason Bryson (WITS School Chef and Miami Manager), Allyce Perret-Gentil (WITS School Chef and Miami Coordinator), Chef!, Nancy Easton (WITS Executive Director & Co-Founder), Laura Culbreth (WITS School Chef), and -Leonor Azpurua (WITS School Chef)

Some of the gang today at lunch (from left to right) Stephanie Cardelle (Four Seasons Miami), Chef Clark Bowen (Chef, db Bistro Miami) Jason Bryson (WITS School Chef and Miami Manager), Allyce Perret-Gentil (WITS School Chef and Miami Coordinator), Chef!, Nancy Easton (WITS Executive Director & Co-Founder), Laura Culbreth (WITS School Chef), and -Leonor Azpurua (WITS School Chef). Bill joined from NYC via Skype!

Today is Food Day, and we are excited to welcome Wellness in the Schools to Miami.  United around the conviction that healthier bodies make healthier minds and that, conversely, unhealthy school environments interfere with student health, school attendance and academic achievement, Executive Director and Co-Founder Nancy Easton is armed with a strong troop of supporters, many of them chefs.  For good reason!  Chef Bill Telepan, a champion of this nonprofit’s efforts in NYC to improve school lunch and educate kids about healthy eating, asked his friend Michael Schwartz for help in bringing this great work to South Florida.  Of course his reply was, I’m in!

Nancy in action!

Nancy in action!

About a year later, Nancy is in town giving a keynote at University of Miami this evening marking Food Day and a milestone for the organization’s arrival here.  Over lunch at Michael’s Genuine®, we met the four chefs who have been hired by WITS and trained to work on-site with cafeteria staff to prepare daily scratch-cooked meals and educate families about the importance of eating healthy food.  Across Miami-Dade and Broward County, chefs Michael, Bradley Kilgore (Alter), Aaron Brooks (Edge Steak & Bar at the Four Seasons Miami) and Clark Bowen (DB Bistro) will each visit their respective schools for special “Café Days” throughout the school year, where they can make an impact first hand with their cheffy know-how.  Think special recipe demos and tastings, dishes for school lunch menus based around fresh ingredients, farmers market visits to see first hand where food comes from, and more…  As we well know through early work with Phyllis Wheatley Elementary and Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools, the smallest things can sometimes have the biggest impact.  Michael’s school chef partner Leonore Azpurua at McNicol Middle School in South Broward pointed to recently popping into classrooms to taste basil harvested from a nearby community garden with students.  And that’s not even in the cafeteria! “The principal is very supportive, but it’s the kids that really want this,” she shared.

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Anything for the Kids: Chef Bill made sure to visit Phyllis Wheatley Elementary when he was in town for his Chef Pop Up Series dinner at Harry’s in March of 2013.  Freshly picked school garden tomatoes just taste better!

In the past eleven years, WITS has cooked over 11 million school meals and led more than 54,000 hours of play.  We had lots of questions for Nancy, as you might imagine, especially about what we can expect here in Miami.  Here’s a little taste of what’s to come!

The Genuine Kitchen:  What’s the most rewarding part of the job? Can you provide one anecdote that says it all?

Nancy Easton: I often say that I keep at this year after year because it is indeed, so rewarding. I see “victories” every day – from kids wanting seconds and thirds of kale salad to principals telling us how much our program is changing their school culture. It sounds silly, but when I walk into schools and see bags of chips and sleeves of cookies on the cafeteria floor, it just makes me so happy to see these same kids wanting more and more kale. They are hungry. They will eat what is in front of them.

A recent reward was actually from a principal. Our focus is not necessarily on the adults in our communities and we do not focus on weight or appearance, but we do hope that our work is making everyone think twice about their own health, starting with the kids. A principal recently told us that thanks to our program, she lost 30 pounds over the summer and that she has so much more energy and feels so healthy.

TGK: What gets kids to eat healthy? Describe a kid’s palate!

NE: As an educator, I always insist on pairing a very good education program with the changes we want to make. It is tough to put organic tofu in front of a kid (or anyone) without educating on the “why”. While our focus is in the kitchen and on the recess yard, we support this centerpiece with a robust educational program – from WITS Labs to WITS BITS to FIT BITS to Family Fitness Fun Nights.  I also want to make it loud and clear that most kids are very open to new discoveries (and they are hungry!).  If you continue to provide kids with delicious healthy choices, they will devour them. Do not give up. It can take persistence.

TGK:  What’s a favorite dish or ingredient that has won them over from your experience in NYC?

NE: I think at this point our vegetarian chili is our signature dish! Everyone loves it. It is served in the cafeteria regularly and we make it on our winter WITS Lab (seasonal cooking class). It is so well spiced and seasoned that the kids don;t even miss the meat. We use three different beans as our protein source. Kids also love hummus, another dish made with a bean (chickpea).

TGK:  Why Miami?

NE: The story of coming to South Florida is actually a sweet one. We obviously look for like-minded markets that are ready of change. And, in the case of South Florida, the head of a local community foundation (Melissa White) was asked by a community member help to create a healthier local school. Melissa googled and found Wellness in the Schools, an organization founded by her camp counselor (yours truly)! I guess she thought that if I could teach her how to swim and play tennis that I could possibly run a wellness organization. Melissa helped us to find 3 others schools in South Florida so that it was worth our efforts and resources to come down.

TGK:  What’s the biggest challenge entering a new market, and describe your approach

NE: We look to new markets as the building new networks – we spend a good deal of time getting to know people and learning about their needs and assets. For the work we do, and to bring about change in general, we rely heavily on the building of relationships and in the case of a new market, on the needs of that community. We are not here to say: “Here is the only way that works. Do it now.” We are here to listen to the specific needs of a community, to tap into the resources of that community (both human and otherwise) and to build relationships and trust in that community so that we can share/implement our models together. We have been incredibly fortunate to hire a staff in South Florida who are dedicated and talented and fabulous. They have learned from our team in NYC and have executed with precision and frankly, with patience. Change is happening at a pace slower than they want, but we have high standards and they are driven to meet those standards, working with local resources and local change agents.

TGK:  What is food day all about, and where does it fit in in the overall big picture of your objectives at WITS!

NE: Honestly, Food Day to me is like Women’s History Month or Black History Month. One day? One month? Food Day is very day for me but I am of course happy that we give more focus to food on this one day. The topic of “food” touches on so many charged and difficult issues – from children’s health to food insecurity to climate change. WITS comes to food day from the perspective of children’s health and specifically childhood obesity. We bring awareness about the issue through our programming and our activism/advocacy.