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Mayor Bloomberg And Tv Personality Rachael Ray Announce New Programs To Promote Healthy Eating

May 13, 2010

Gardening, Cooking and Nutrition Instruction to Show City Youth How Food is Grown and How to Bring that Food from Garden to Table

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Rachael Ray today announced a series of initiatives to help our City’s youth eat healthier and understand where their food comes from. The new programs, supported by Rachael Ray and her Yum-o! organization, will help schools build a garden or connect them to an existing garden and provide cooking and nutrition instruction to young New Yorkers. The announcement was made next to the vegetable garden at PS 29 in Brooklyn, which the school is using to teach students about healthy eating – in addition to enhancing science and nature curriculums. The Mayor and Rachael Ray were joined by Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn, New York State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Patrick Hooker, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs, Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein, Food Policy Coordinator Ben Thomases, Community Affairs Commissioner Nazli Parvizi, Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City President Megan Sheekey, GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen, PS 29 Principal Melanie Woods and representatives from community partners including the Sylvia Center, The Children’s Aid Society and the Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center. 

“School gardens encourage more young New Yorkers to eat healthier diets and help them understand where their food comes from,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “From GreenThumb gardens to public housing gardens to countless community gardens, so many New Yorkers are greening our urban landscapes and greening their diets too. Our partnership with Rachael Ray will help children understand how eating fresh food and preparing their own meals can help them to lead longer, healthier lives.”

“We are very excited to form this public-private partnership with Mayor Bloomberg to help teach New York City youth where food comes from and in turn provide them with encouragement to make healthier choices,” said Ms. Ray.  “In addition to empowering kids to cook and have a healthier relationship with food, these programs will also allow us to show kids how the culinary arts can be a positive career path, which is one of the major goals of our Yum-o! organization.”

“Teaching children about healthy eating and where our food comes from is just as valuable as teaching them how to read and write,” said Speaker Quinn. “Thanks to groups like Rachel Ray’s Yum-o! organization, GrowNYC, and GreenThumb, we are educating more and more New York City children everyday about the importance of nutritious eating and how and where to grow their own healthy food.  The Council has been working to use our food system to create jobs, promote public health, and protect the environment – most recently though our FoodWorks New York initiative.  We look forward to continued partnership on additional community gardens efforts, and all of our efforts to help New Yorkers eat healthier.”

Gardens provide educational opportunities regarding nutrition and cooking, which can have long-term health benefits. Studies show when children grow and prepare their own food, their understanding of the relationship between food and health grows too. Studies also show that positive eating habits begun before 6th grade are more likely to last into adulthood.

“The school garden initiative is not only teaching our children about the importance of healthy eating, but it’s also providing them with fresh and delicious school-food options,” said Chancellor Klein. “And the gardens aren’t just about eating well. Research shows that school gardens are excellent learning environments, and students exposed to them do better on science exams.”

This spring a new “Learning Garden” was also constructed in City Hall Park to show children first-hand how food is grown. The garden, which is currently growing snow peas, cabbage, kale, lettuces, kohlrabi, onions and broccoli is being tended and used by PS 276 and PS 397 located in the adjacent Tweed Courthouse building. “Learning Gardens” have also been created at Randall’s Island and Gracie Mansion, where children from the Stanley Isaacs Community Center have been growing vegetables and receiving cooking instruction as part of “The Growing Place” project.

Also with support from Rachael Ray, the City is launching cooking and nutritional pilot programs at New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) campuses this summer and fall in partnership with the Sylvia Center and Children’s Aid Society. The goal of these programs is to help young people develop cooking skills, become conscientious consumers and make healthier food choices. In addition, an afterschool program at NYCHA specifically for youth 16-24 will promote not only healthy nutrition, but also introduce food service and culinary arts as potential career paths. This population is a target demographic of the Mayor’s Center for Economic Opportunity, which seeks to provide youth with innovative education, career exploration, and job training programs.

“The work of the City’s Food Policy Taskforce has increased access to healthy food in New York City, through Green Carts, Healthy Bodegas, and the FRESH program,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “The initiatives announced today are a perfect complement to this work because they will help promote demand for fresh fruits and vegetables by engaging young people in growing, cooking and tasting them.”

A recent study by the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets found that 306 of the 1,600 schools have an interactive growing environment and instructional lessons. This number includes those schools that that have outdoor raised bed gardens, EarthBoxes inside their classrooms or relationships with nearby community gardens or larger urban farm sites. The study finds that barriers to garden creation and survival include limited funding, need for gardening equipment and materials, and few resources to care for gardens over the summer.

The Mayor announced new efforts that will help address these obstacles including:

  • Launching a new mini-grant program (grants of $500-$1,000) this fall for schools in need of funds to start a garden.
  • Creating a website for schools, being designed by GrowNYC, to be launched by this fall with resources including:
    • Additional technical assistance provided by GrowNYC and GreenThumb.
    • Information on how to locate and connect to local community gardens.
    • Complimentary programming provided by City and nonprofit partners.
    • Information for teachers on how to incorporate garden instruction into existing curricula to maximize their academic impact.
  • Expanding the “Garden to Café” pilot program from 25 schools to more than 50 schools in the 2010 school year. The program’s goal is to connect school gardening and lunch menus through seasonal harvest events and educational activities. PS 29 is one of the initial Garden to Café sites and the school uses what is grown in the garden in its salad bar and to create recipes for special events.
  • Starting a teen intern program to take care of school gardens during the summer months. NYC Service will also help coordinate volunteers to care for the gardens.

 “We commend New York City and Rachael Ray for a private-public investment in school gardening and food education that will improve the health of our children and New York State agriculture,” said State Agriculture & Markets Commissioner Hooker.  “When children grow food and become aware of the importance of local agriculture, we expand opportunities to serve locally-grown foods in schools and most importantly, we increase student consumption of healthy produce.” 

There are growing and food learning opportunities even amidst space constraints in our dense city.  City schools have already found creative ways to implement gardening projects. Examples of innovative growing projects include PS 364 in the East Village which grows vegetables in converted pickle barrels; PS 146 in Brooklyn which has created a complex composting and rainwater harvesting system to support their thriving garden; and Discovery High School in the Bronx which started a hydroponic growing wall, which was also featured at the announcement. This fall the Edible Schoolyard program also plans to establish roots in New York City and break ground on their first edible garden at PS 216 in Brooklyn.

Community Affairs Commissioner Nazli Parvizi will act as a liaison to the culinary community, which includes neighborhood restaurants, to help build partnerships between these entities and the City's leaders in food and nutrition policy at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Office of the Food Policy Coordinator. Commissioner Parvizi, in addition to heading the Mayor’s Community Affairs Unit, has worked as a chef and caterer.

“New York City is not only one of the top culinary capitals of the world but also home to such a creative growing and culinary education community,” said CAU Commissioner Parvizi. “I look forward to continuing to work with restaurateurs and others in the food and growing network to further our shared goals of a healthier and happier New York.”

The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City is helping to facilitate the public-private partnerships and raise funds in support of these projects. The creation of the website is being supported by New York City Chef Mario Batali, who last month held a fundraising dinner at his restaurant Del Posto. Jessica Seinfeld, author and founder of Baby Buggy, which presents creative, healthy recipes for kids, is supporting the “Fun Food, Smart Food,” a cooking and nutrition program for middle-school students in partnership with The Children’s Aid Society. The initiative has been piloted in 12 afterschool sites in East/Central Harlem, Central Brooklyn, the South Bronx and Jamaica, Queens over the past two years. The Mayor’s Fund, in coordination with GrowNYC, is now accepting donations and in-kind support for garden supplies, mini-grant funding and ongoing care and stewardship of the gardens. Visit to find out more.

Rachael Ray is best known as the host of the Emmy Award winning daytime television show “Rachael Ray,” as well as through her popular Food Network shows. She is also the author of bestselling cookbooks, has a lifestyle magazine Every Day with Rachael Ray and her own line of Rachael Ray cookware, knives and food ingredients. In 2007, Rachael launched Yum-o!, a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering kids and their families to develop healthier relationships with food and cooking. Yum-o!’s three work areas include educating kids and their families about cooking, feeding hungry American kids, and funding cooking education and scholarships.  

The projects announced today enhance the existing work done by Ms. Ray with SchoolFood to create exciting, delicious and nutritious lunch menus for 1,600 NYC public schools, serving 1.9 million students, On April 28, 2010 Ms. Ray launched her latest SchoolFood menu item called “Cheesy Mac and Trees,” a healthy take on traditional macaroni and cheese, filled with whole wheat pasta, real cheese, skim milk, red bell peppers and broccoli florets.

Media Contact

Stu Loeser / Jason Post
(212) 788-2958

Media Contact

Charlie Dougiello (Rachael Ray)
(212) 905-6190

Media Contact

Jamie McShane (Speaker Quinn)
(212) 788-7124