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Healthy School Foods Celebrates Black Health and Wellness

Chef Anand demonstrates a sweet potato hash recipe with assistance from Chef Iris for the students of Aiton Elementary School as part of Healthy School Foods’ Black History Month Celebration on Thursday, February 17, 2022.


Black Health and Wellness was the theme for this year’s Black History Month for DC Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services. In celebration, DC Central Kitchen created themed lunches for every Thursday of the month that highlighted Black athletes along with a healthy and balanced meal. 

Our students enjoyed dishes that are staples in Black culture, such as collard greens, Jamaican jerk chicken, black eyed peas, and sweet potato hash while learning about athletes like Sydney McLaughlin, Jackie Robinson, Wilfritz Pollard and Bobby Marshall. 

 “Since most of the students that we serve are African-American, we thought it was important to feature meals from our history,” said Chef Anand Shantam, School Foods Contract Meals and Nutrition Coordinator.  

The Healthy School Food team also hosted a special cooking demo and book raffle at Maude E. Aiton Elementary School in Northeast DC on February 17th.  

Students were handed raffle tickets and laminated bookmarks with facts about sweet potatoes as they entered the cafeteria. As they dined on their lunches, Chef Anand demonstrated how to prepare the same sweet potato-hash they were filling their bellies with.  

“I liked the potatoes because they had a little spice to them,” said one third grader. 

After the cooking demo, 20 lucky students were chosen through a raffle to pick out a book to take home. All the books, which were a mix of fiction and non-fiction, were all written by Black authors and featured Black main characters. Students look turns excitedly running up to the table and beaming as they picked out their books.  

One fifth grade boy chose a picture book about politician Stacey Abrams. “I’m going to bring the book home and give it to my sister,” he said as he sat back down at his lunch table. 

“I think it’s important because of what we represent at DC Central Kitchen: We use food as a tool for empowerment,” said Chef Anand. “To show students a recipe from their culture heightens their awareness of the history behind the foods they eat at school and at home, and I love being a part of that.”

By creating interactive lunches centered around nutritious cooking and reading, DC Central Kitchen supports both healthy bodies and healthy minds in our students. Through events like Fresh Feature Friday and meal pick-up days during school breaks we’re ensuring not only that our students are fed but that they’re excited about healthy eating.