Chef Samuel Spencer Gives the Gift of Knowledge on Childhood Nutrition Day

 

Chef Samuel Spencer, Culinary Director at Guided Discoveries and Chapter President of ACF Metro Mobile Chefs and Cooks Association, developed a love of food from helping his grandmother, who was a chef, work in the kitchen. And just as he learned about food as a child all those years ago, he has been passing his knowledge on to young people by volunteering for Childhood Nutrition Day for the last six years. We chatted with Chef Spencer about his experience with the event over the years, including his work at W.H. Leinkauf Elementary School in Mobile, Alabama this year.

Q: What made you want to volunteer for Childhood Nutrition Day?

I think it’s so important because I was introduced to the kitchen as a child, and at that time, not really knowing the nutritional side of things. But now as a chef, I can give back to students who are the age I was when I was first introduced to the kitchen, and on a more health education level. When we do Childhood Nutrition Day, it is one of the biggest events we do at the chapter throughout the year. When looking at those 600 to 700 kids, I can see myself in each and every one, so looking in the face of those kids is a joy.

Q: What has your experience with Childhood Nutrition Day been like over the years?

It has been tremendous because some vegetables that we see every day or prepare as a chef, sometimes kids at that age are not aware of them. The kids see a fresh tomato or see a cucumber and they just get excited and bite into it. There are little moments when the kids really get exposed to some fresh fruits and vegetables and this may be their first exposure to them. They say things like, “hey, I bit down into a fresh cucumber. What is this tomato? Is this a grape tomato? This cherry tomato was wonderful.” It’s just those little moments when the kids are there and it ignites their imagination.

Q: What did you do for Childhood Nutrition Day this year?

We prepared healthy nutritional meals for around 600 K-5 students. We have some partners in the community that came out to help, along with the local culinary schools. We had some local high schools come out and get involved this year as well. We turned it into a full, fun cooking expo with some live chef demonstrations, along with a fruit stand and produce stand where all the kids could leave with some healthy fruits and produce.

One of the presentations was about fresh fruit, so there was a fresh fruit display. We also did a display of microgreens, and then introduced the kids to different plant-based items. We had one vendor come out and show the kids what they are, and the beginning stages of micros because that’s a real trend in the industry right now. And then the high school did a stir fry with plant-based chicken.

With everything for the event, we just tried to bring it to a nutritional level, so the kids could see it. In this year’s program, we added more educational facts and topics because we wanted to focus not on just healthy eating, but on a healthy lifestyle at a young age. We were able to add an exercise segment to this event with the help of Murphy High School’s culinary program.

Q: How did students respond?

The students were ecstatic! They look forward to this event each and every year, and now we’re making plans to do similar events throughout the year, but on a smaller scale, to help promote child nutrition. So this will be an ongoing event.

Q: What would you tell chefs to encourage them to participate in the next Childhood Nutrition Day?

You can give back to what we make a living from, and that can be someone else’s blessing. We are older now, but we have all been kids once. I think exposing the youth is not just about eating, but about a potential career

Food is healing, so as chefs, we’re not here just to feed the souls, we are here to heal the souls as well.  This event as a chapter is helping us build a footprint within the community that we are here to help.

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