By Kenya McCullum
ACF Chef Jason “Jay Z” Ziobrowski, CEC, corporate chef, Morrison Healthcare, has been involved in ACFEF’s Chef & Child Initiative for more than a decade. He regularly presents his “5 a Day the Color Way” program to school-aged children in classrooms in and around Charlotte, North Carolina, where he lives. We caught up with Chef Ziobrowski to find out more about this program and how it can make a difference in the lives of young people.
What is the “5 a Day the Color Way” program? How did it get started?
It’s something I kicked off in Charlotte and have kept it going since 2012. In a nutshell, it’s a colorful way to teach portion size and nutrition to school kids. I give credit to the chef who gave me the idea, Chef Jason Wolf, and he kind of just sat back in his recliner and let me run with it. He did it as a thing for kids, and I have the beginning pictures of his very first one he showed me — it’s one apple on a table with one banana, one orange and one bag of corn.
I saw it and said, ‘Let’s kick this off,’ and he goes, ‘Let’s do it!’ We had a giant kickoff with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the ACF local chapter, and we just did product identification. We held up a tomato or an orange and asked the kids, ‘What is this?’ Then we created characters, so there was Bradley Blueberry, Tommy Tomato, Oscar Orange, Claudia Cauliflower and Bobby Broccoli. Now we have Carlos Carrot, Sammy Sweet Potato and Penelope Pea — all created to represent fruits and vegetables. Then we tell them they should eat five portions a day — portion size, the size of your fist. So the saying goes, ‘5 a day the color way; portion size, the size of your fist.’
How do you choose which foods you’re going to discuss during a presentation?
We have our characters, so I’ve got the colors all represented — green, blue, white, orange and red. I’ll pick one fruit or vegetable that has many brothers and sisters, so peppers and potatoes are good ones. And just as we have diversity in people, I tell students there’s diversity in fruits and veggies.
How do you capture the students’ attention during your demonstrations?
You’ve got to have personality because basically, you have to keep 75 third graders entertained. You have to be creative. So as I’m talking about green peppers, red peppers and yellow peppers, I’m juggling them. If I’m presenting with somebody else, I toss a pepper to them. You have to have a personality to do that. You have to rule the roost and own the room and let those kids know that you’re a presence because you’re a chef. And you have to keep going because the minute you stop and think, you’ve lost half those kids.
What have been the results of your classroom visits?
When I work with a school, I ask for a tray of the food they’re going to serve that day — just the fruits and veggies. I don’t want the lasagna, I don’t want the chicken tenders. And no joke, 80% of the time, they run out of fruits and vegetables because the kids are asking for them. The influence you have as a chef on kids is beyond what you think it is. It’s so rewarding when that Facebook message comes over, and it’s a parent saying, ‘How did you do it? You got my kid to eat broccoli!’
Where do you see the “5 a Day the Color Way” program going?
I’m trying to launch it in children’s hospitals right now. Since I work for Morrison Healthcare, I want to launch it as a program in hospitals and all the children’s hospitals to get kids excited about fruits and veggies.
To see Chef Ziobrowski’s recent presentation on global flavors trends for healthcare foodservice during an ACF ChefsForum webinar, visit ACF’s YouTube channel. Click here https://www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Partnerships/Chef_and_Child/ACF/Partnerships/CCF/ to learn more about ACFEF’s Chef & Child Initiative. Click here https://www.acfchefs.org/ACF/Partnerships/Chef_and_Child/Grants/ACF/Partnerships/CCF/Grant/ to learn more about and apply for the Health Eating Grants to fund your programming by March 31.