It's a landmark event for obesity in America — and not surprisingly, Houston's invited.
On June 4, First Lady Michelle Obama will host the kickoff event for the "Chefs Move to Schools" program, a shout out to chefs to join in helping school children lead healthier lives.
Culinary masters from all over the country will be in attendance at next week's event, but Houston will be in the spotlight, thanks to the hard work of Gracie Cavnar and her hometown non-profit fighting childhood obesity, Recipe for Success, an organization that educates children about healthy living and eating with innovative programming that draws upon a pool of 45 of Houston's finest chefs.
The Houston-based non-profit is a collaboration between diligent movers and shakers, educators and such foodie fixtures as Monica Pope, Bryan Caswell, Robert Del Grande, Armando Palacios and Scott Tycer. It's the biggest chef-driven nutrition education program in the country.
Recipe for Success' goals are perfectly aligned with the "Let's Move" Presidential Task Force to End Childhood Obesity. Over 30 percent of American children are overweight and at risk for obesity or already suffering from its effects. In Texas alone, nearly 50 percent of fourth graders fall into an at-risk weight category.
So far, about half a dozen Houston chefs will be accompanying Cavnar at the White House's Rose Garden ceremony next week, including Pope, Randy Evans, Kiran Verma, Michael Kramer and Barbara McKnight. Also making the trek will be a delegation of Houston personalities and Recipe for Success board members including Stephanie Walker, Rick Terry and Melanie Wilson-Lawson.
"This is a shining moment for Gracie," beams McKnight, who founded Catering by Culinaire and has worked with the community organizer for three years. McKnight has adopted Briscoe Elementary School as her pet project, conducting seed-to-plate nutrition classes with an on-campus garden and kitchen.
As part of the First Lady's program, many chefs across the country will adopt a public school, and not only change the food that's served there, but also convene with local food service organizations. "We're all so excited," McKnight adds. "This visit to the White House will be a great thing for the cause and children across the nation."
When Cavnar launched Recipe for Success in the mid '90s, it was a forerunner in the national conversation about childhood obesity, and it's only become more relevant. Michelle Obama and White House chef Sam Kass will be taking many elements of Recipe for Success as they assemble the framework for the White House initiative.
Says Cavnar, "We always want to be both agents and inspirers of change. This is one more step along the way to doing that."
The June 4 kickoff is a tribute to the future of nutrition in America — but it's also Cavnar's birthday. It will be a bountiful day of recognition for Cavnar, her nutrition-minded non-profit and Houston chefs.