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Pre-K Students Reap Benefits Of Healthy Eating Lessons

Millions of families in the U.S. have a hard time accessing healthy foods, especially low-income households. One San Antonio program is hoping to help get more fresh produce into home-cooked meals. 

At the second produce market of the year for Pre-K 4 SA, 5-year-old Robin Torres is begging her grandma for a bag of Brussels sprouts. "Vegetables make you feel better and healthy," Torres says. 

This early education program serves mostly families that qualify for free-lunch programs, or food stamps. Pre-K 4 SA serves 1,700 students at four centers across San Antonio.

NithyaMohan says food is a big part of her family’s life.

“We cook every day, like three times per day,” Mohan says. 

While some of the families at the market say most of the farmers markets are on the other side of town, Mohan says they shop at the nearby H-E-B and an Indian grocery store. But at this market, she can get whole bags of squash for just a dollar.

While Pre-K 4 SA contracts its meals from Selrico, the company also provides educational opportunities. Rachel Bland is a nutritionist and program manager for Selrico. She sends home a nutrition newsletter that offers shopping and menu tips for parents, and gets into the classroom.

"It's challenging for busy parents," Bland says. 

Students just wrapped up a lesson on how to eat all the colors of the rainbow.

“This is the perfect age for them to start being exposed to different foods," Bland says. "Their palates are developing, and they can be picky at this age, but if they’re exposed, they’re more likely as they get older to eat healthy foods throughout their childhood."

Lessons tie together how food is grown, where it comes from, harvest and its nutritional value. The Pre-K 4 Sa center on Medical Drive has its own garden on one of the playgrounds. And after Thanksgiving the students will harvest and have a chance to taste the foods they have grown, Denise Barrera-Tejeda, assistant director for Pre-K 4 SA says.

"A lot of the children don't know where their food comes from," she says. 

Among the offerings at the market are asparagus, peppers, and of course 5-year-old Robin's favorite, broccoli. 

RECIPES

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Credit Tricia Schwennesen / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Chili-Cheese Corn

Chili-Cheese Corn

  • 6 ears shucked corn (or frozen corn kernels)
  • 6 tablespoons canola mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder

Cook the corn in boiling water for 6 minutes; drain and dry thoroughly. Spread 1 tablespoon canola mayonnaise evenly over each cob. Combine cilantro, parmesan cheese and chili powder in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the corn cobs and serve warm.

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Credit Tricia Schwennesen / Texas Public Radio
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Texas Public Radio
Asparagus Cream Soup

  Asparagus Cream Soup

  • 2 pounds of green asparagus 
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 5 to 6 cups chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Cut tips from 12 asparagus 1-1/2 inches from the top. cut in half if thick and reserve these for garnish. Cut stalks and all remaining asparagus into 1/2-inch pieces. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in a 4-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Add asparagus pieces, salt and pepper to taste, then cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Add 5 cups of broth and simmer covered until asparagus is very tender, 15 to 20 minutes. While soup simmers, cook reserved asparagus tips in boiling, salted water until tender, 3 to 4 minutes, and then drain. Puree soup in batches in the blender until smooth, transferring to a bowl and return to pan. Stir in heavy cream, then add more broth to thin soup to desired consistency. Season with salt and  pepper. Bring soup to a boil and whisk in remaining tablespoon of butter. Add lemon and garnish with asparagus tips.