Criss-cross applesauce



Nia Bligen, 6, roared and wrapped her hand around a plastic butcher’s knife using a “bear claw” grip to shield her fingers from the blade.

She rested the knife on the scarlet skin of an apple wedge. Nia then flicked her right wrist down, chopping the slice in two.

“Oh, I did it,” she said.

She placed her left hand on the back of the knife for additional leverage and continued dicing the three slices in front of her. Children’s imitation bear roars and giggles filled the classroom where Chef Ellen Emerson taught Nia and 22 of her first-grade AmPark Neighborhood School classmates how to make applesauce on Oct. 4.

AmPark Neighborhood School, PS 344 is one of more than 30 city schools participating in the non-profit Wellness in School’s Cook for Kids program, which sends chefs into lunchrooms to craft school menus using seasonal, unprocessed ingredients. The program also teaches students how to make nutritious recipes during four annual cooking labs. 

The non-profit provides schools with fitness coaches and officials from environmental agencies, who teach students how to go green. 

The Sheila Mencher Van Cortlandt School, PS/MS 95 has also partnered with the organization.  

At AmPark, students said they enjoyed practicing slicing techniques during their first lab.

“I wish I could come here everyday,” Nia said, while explaining that she hadn’t cut apples or cooked applesauce before. 

Ms. Emerson opened the lab with a discussion about healthy recipes, highlighting the nutritional value of the eight apples, one cup of water and one teaspoon of cinnamon the class would use to make applesauce. First graders ticked off reasons to stay healthy –– “so we can be big,” “so we can be strong,” “for muscles,” –– while seated behind bright, plastic placemats at four tables. 

The class then swapped healthy lifestyle tips like eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking water and exercising. 

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