When You Give to CUESA, Who Benefits? Kids and Teachers

December 20, 2013

We are sometimes asked by our supporters where their funds go and who benefits when they donate to CUESA. In this season of giving, we’ve decided to answer this important question by profiling four recipients of your donations and CUESA’s work. So far, we have met a family that has made their farm more sustainable and a high school student who has found a healthier path with help from supporters like you.

This week, we’d like you to meet Maria Acosta, a site nutrition coordinator for San Francisco Unified School District. Overseeing programs at nine schools for thousands of students, she educates children about healthy choices and supports teachers and administrators in developing and enacting healthy school policies. “I see myself as a cheerleader for fruits and vegetables,” Maria says with pride.

Over the years, she has led dozens of classes on tours of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. She has also taken advantage of CUESA’s new Foodwise Kids program, which uses the market and the CUESA Kitchen to teach kids about tasting, cooking, and enjoying good food. CUESA offers the program free of charge to public elementary schools in San Francisco, and more than 1,100 students have been served so far.

When you give to CUESA, you are supporting passionate educators like Maria in their work to help children grow up food-wise and healthy. Maria says:

As a site nutrition coordinator, I help create healthy environments at schools and get kids to be active and eat more fruits and vegetables. Cooking is probably the most interactive way to get kids interested in health and nutrition, and one thing that brings those lessons to life is going to the farmers market.

I’ve been taking students on field trips to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market for about seven years now. The farmers market is like an extension of my job, because it helps put everything we’ve learned into practice. Kids get to taste new flavors and fresh foods in season, which is different from eating foods from the grocery store. When they see that the flavors are better when food comes direct from a farm, they’re more likely to make healthy choices.

Last year, I was able to take one of my classes to participate in CUESA’s new Foodwise Kids program. The teachers and students loved it. The teachers appreciated the structure of having an introduction to the market, an activity with the farmers, and a cooking lesson. Before Foodwise Kids, we would visit the market and then take our ingredients back to school with us. But with Foodwise Kids, they’re cooking in the same place where they bought the vegetables and fruits, which has a stronger impact.

I remember seeing one of my students in the kitchen at Foodwise Kids. He can be a little defiant and bossy at times, but during the cooking lesson, he was really into it and took his ingredients very seriously. He had a palate. Being in that environment helped a new side of him come through.

In terms of healthy eating, the obstacles for the kids I work with are huge. It’s about access and knowledge. A lot of them don’t go to farmers markets because they don’t know where they are. They’re growing up on prepackaged and frozen foods. In our culture, the spotlight shines so intensely on products that are high in sugar, salt, and fat. Foodwise Kids moves that spotlight to fruits and vegetables.

Everybody is being helped by this program. It’s opening things up, in terms of access and equity. The most powerful part is that the kids have a choice in what fruits and vegetables to buy. Everybody gets a token, and everybody gets a say in what to buy together.

Cooking is an art that’s going away because people don’t make time for it. To eat healthy, it’s crucial to know how to cook for yourself. Foodwise Kids teaches these important skills, which the kids are naturally good at. It’s like they’ve been waiting their whole lives to get into the kitchen. Foodwise Kids is making time for cooking and saying, “This is important.”

By giving to CUESA, you are supporting educators like Maria and giving her students access to fresh fruits and vegetables, so that they can develop important cooking skills for life. Make a tax-deductible donation today.


Maria Acosta photo courtesy of Maria Acosta. Boy with olive oil photo by Bonnie Tse.

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