New York State Health Foundation

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Wellness in the Schools

  • Project Title: WITS Culinary Boot Camps
  • Priority Area: Building Healthy Communities
  • Grant Amount: $34,927
  • Date Awarded: November 8, 2016
  • Region: New York City
  • Website:
  • Grant Status: In Progress


In New York City, one in five kindergarten students and one in four students from low-income families are obese. Childhood obesity impacts children’s long-term health, as well as their academic performance. To address this pressing public health issue, Wellness in the Schools (WITS), in partnership with the New York City Office of SchoolFood, has developed Alternative Menu, a program that enables schools to provide more home-made food with fresh ingredients and healthier menu options. However, this program can be difficult to implement without proper culinary training of cafeteria staff and student engagement. In 2016, NYSHealth awarded WITS a grant to help provide the necessary training for implementing the Alternative Menu program in New York City public schools.

Under this grant, WITS will host a culinary boot camp for City public school cafeteria workers to provide them with the culinary skills and tools to successfully implement Alternative Menu. Specifically, WITS will offer a three-day boot camp to train attendees on key culinary skills, including basic cooking techniques, knife skills, storage and organization of fresh produce, advance prepping, and menu planning. Additionally, WITS will monitor and engage with each participating school on a monthly basis to check on progress and troubleshoot any problems that arise. To evaluate this project, Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Teachers College will track the amount of fruits and vegetables used across participating schools and compare consumption patterns among control schools, schools with the Alternative Menu program, and schools that participated in the boot camp.