The Return of Jumbo’s Kitchen

by Theo Fitopoulos

Jumbo’s Kitchen is entering its ninth year as a program at the Friedman School. Now under new leadership, Tufts students are hoping to grow the program to better serve the needs of those in our community. Jumbo’s Kitchen volunteers will have the opportunity to empower students at the nearby Josiah Quincy Elementary School through cooking and nutrition education. Learn more about what is in store this semester, and how you can get involved!

It is that time of year again! Students of the Tufts Health Sciences schools now have the chance to teach children in the local community about having fun, gaining confidence, and making healthy choices through cooking and nutrition education. Jumbo’s Kitchen returns this spring, giving students the opportunity to volunteer at the nearby Josiah Quincy Elementary School to teach the basics of cooking and nutrition. This year the Jumbo’s Kitchen team is also aiming to teach the students about gardening and growing their own food.

Student Simon Ye teaching at a Jumbo's Kitchen session in Spring 2017

Student Simon Ye teaching at a Jumbo’s Kitchen session in Spring 2017.

Jumbo’s Kitchen started at the Friedman School in 2009 and despite operating in different schools around Boston, the mission remains the same: to promote an understanding of nutrition and introduce basic cooking skills to empower kids to develop healthy eating habits. Simon Ye, a PhD candidate at the Friedman School, began volunteering with Jumbo’s Kitchen as a Curriculum Development Chair during the 2015-16 school year. When asked why he wanted to get involved initially, Ye said, “Personally speaking I love cooking and working with kids, so taking this role was ideal for me to serve the community in a way that I really enjoy.” Partnering with the Josiah Quincy Elementary School offers the Friedman the opportunity to build a sense of community with our neighbors and volunteer with young students at an age when it’s more important than ever to develop healthy eating habits.

As a first-year student at Tufts Medical School, Vanessa Yu was looking for different volunteering opportunities offered through the school. When she learned about the Jumbo’s Kitchen program, she was eager to get involved: “Going into Tufts Med, I knew I wanted to find a way to engage with the local community. Tufts is the only medical school to be located in a Chinatown, which is a really unique position to be in, in terms of understanding how to interact with a different community and culture. It’s important for students on the Boston campus to be cognizant of the lives that their patients lead, and programs like Jumbo’s Kitchen are a great way to gain that awareness. By spending a few hours each week with students of the Josiah Quincy School, we’ll get to learn about the littlest members of our community and discover what’s most important to them.”

Josiah Quincy students learn how to make smoothies.

Josiah Quincy students learn how to make smoothies.

Jumbo’s Kitchen also provides a valuable experience for volunteers. Not only are they able to help neighbors in our community develop healthy eating habits, but Jumbo’s Kitchen volunteers also gain experience developing lessons and teaching nutrition in a classroom setting. Some of the sessions in this year’s Jumbo’s Kitchen curriculum include an introduction to food groups and the USDA MyPlate, basic cooking techniques, serving sizes, healthy snacking, and field trips to the Friedman School garden and a local Chinatown grocery store. Each week will feature a different food that fits the specific lesson, and students will keep track of what they learn in their own journals, so they can share lessons with their families at home.

The time commitment for Jumbo’s Kitchen volunteers includes lesson planning, food shopping for the week, and class time. Classes will take place on eight different Fridays this semester at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School. This year’s curriculum has the Jumbo’s Kitchen board very excited, and we have a great group of volunteers ready to start the semester; however there is always room for more students to get involved. Simon Ye has seen the benefit of the program to the kids first-hand: “Jumbo’s Kitchen’s goal is to teach kids basic nutrition and food preparation skills. I believe that developing a positive and active relationship with what we eat is critical for leading a healthy lifestyle in the long run. I wish that when I was a kid someone could have helped me understand what food is in a way that Jumbo’s Kitchen is now doing. I can tell that many of the kids enjoy our classes and learned something that they will carry later on.”

To get involved with Jumbo’s Kitchen contact Vanessa Yu at vanessa.yu@tufts.edu. Be sure to keep up with Jumbo’s Kitchen this semester by following us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, using @jumboskitchen!

Theo Fitopoulos is a second-year student in the Food Policy and Applied Nutrition program, and current intern at the Tufts Health Science Public Relations Office. In his free time, he enjoys sampling the burgeoning Boston restaurant scene, experimenting with traditional Greek recipes in his own kitchen, and playing basketball and tennis when the weather permits.

Volunteer at an event that is sure to inspire! Girls On The Run 5K

by Dani Bradley

Looking for a volunteer opportunity where you can be outside, be physically active, and help empower girls? Dani Bradley tells us what she loves about Girls on the Run, and how you can get involved this winter.

Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Has the cold weather stifled your fitness inspiration? That’s nothing girls with pink tutus and sparkles can’t fix.

Girls on the Run (GOTR) is an amazing organization that “inspires girls to be joyful, healthy, and confident using a fun, experience-based curriculum which creatively integrates running”. GOTR empowers and educates young girls, in grades three through eight, to help them realize their full potential and provides an unmatched opportunity to develop healthy habits in our youth. The organization began in 1996 in North Carolina and now has over 225 councils across the country! During a 12-week season, girls participate in a program that integrates running and lessons about various GOTR values such as, empowerment, responsibility, and healthfulness, to name only a few. Girls can sign up with specific ‘sites’—usually the town they live in or the community program they are a part of. Any town or community center can start their own site through their local council, with their own funding or as a scholarship site, as long as there are volunteer coaches and girls that are ready to sign up!

When I first became involved with GOTR I was interested in becoming a coach, but unfortunately my job before becoming a Friedman student didn’t allow me to partake in the after-school practices. A former co-worker and I reached out to GOTR’s 5k team leader asking how we could get involved and she told us the Greater Boston council was in the midst of planning their first 5k! We quickly got involved and became the co-chairs to the volunteer committee on the 5k planning team. While my involvement is primarily behind the scenes, it is extremely gratifying to know that I play a role in the success of the program and can positively contribute to each girls’ experience! I think most Friedman students share in GOTR’s values of health and fitness and can appreciate the impact that can be made when young girls are taught healthy habits early in life.

Ready to get inspired? This December the Greater Boston council is hosting its Fall 5k at Dedham High school and you can volunteer! In my opinion, the 5k is the most exciting part of the program. Each girl and her ‘running buddy’ (usually a parent, guardian, babysitter, etc.) partake in a fun-filled day of exercise, empowerment, and excitement!

In my position as volunteer committee co-chair, I co-manage all of the event’s volunteers. Each year, over 100 inspired volunteers help us run the event.

Volunteer opportunities include (but are not limited to):

  • Course Marshals are assigned a specific location on the course where they help guide the runners in the correct direction and cheer them on.
  • Happy hair volunteers participate in the pre-race activities including helping girls with their hair (braiding, spray-painting, etc.), temporary tattoos, face painting, operating a photo booth, and other fun activities!
  • Water stops volunteers help set up the water stations along the course, hand out water to runners, and clean up the area after the girls have passed by. This is a great option if a group of people all want to volunteer together.
  • Registration volunteers help the GOTR team with runner check-in.
  • Sparkle Runners are volunteers that register to run the race. Each girl is required to run with a ‘running buddy’ for safety purposes, but each year some running buddies cannot make it last minute. Sparkle runners can stand in for missing running buddies or just run the course helping to cheer on all the girls.
  • Cheer Hub volunteers motivate the girls at the toughest parts of the course using noisemakers and signs.
  • Merchandise volunteers manage the merchandise table and sell our awesome GOTR gear.
Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Photo: GOTR Facebook page

Our upcoming 5k is scheduled for Sunday, December 4th at Dedham High School in Dedham, MA.

Grab your friends, classmates, roommates, coworkers, or family and register to volunteer with us!! The deadline to register is Sunday, November 27th.

If you have any questions at all, please feel free to contact me at Danielle.bradley@tufts.edu. I hope to see you there!

Learn more about Girls on the Run and Girls on the Run Greater Boston.

Dani Bradley is a MPH/FPAN dual degree student. She began at the School of Medicine in January 2016 and is currently in her first semester at the Friedman School. In her free time, she enjoys running, spending time outside, and watching The Office or Parks and Recreation.  

Dig In and Give Back with DINE!

by Mike Zastoupil and Sam Hoeffler

Want to make new friends at Friedman and be a part of the Chinatown community? Become a teacher with DINE!

Students taste-test veggies of all colors of the rainbow. Photo by Sam Hoeffler.

Students taste-test veggies of all colors of the rainbow. Photo by Sam Hoeffler.

School gardens have been popping up in cities all across the U.S. in an effort to teach children where their food comes from, and of course Tufts University’s Friedman School is part of the movement. For more than 10 years, the Dig In! Nutrition Education (DINE) program has brought Friedman students into neighboring Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Chinatown to teach third graders about nutrition and life science, with an emphasis on the importance of gardening and eating healthy food. Based on research conducted by past Friedman students on best teaching practices, DINE teachers facilitate hands-on, interactive lessons about plant parts, worm bin decomposition, pollinators and more. The program consists of four lessons in the fall and three lessons in the spring, with a culminating end-of-the-year celebration on the rooftop garden that the students themselves plant from seed.

Students draw food webs. Photo by Carolyn Panzarella.

Students draw food webs. Photo by Carolyn Panzarella.

Worm compost built by DINE students. Photo by Kathleen Nay.

Worm compost built by DINE students. Photo by Kathleen Nay.

The DINE program gives Friedman students the chance to gain real experience in garden-based education as well as the opportunity to give back to the Chinatown community. The excitement of the kids and fun activities are also a refreshing study break for Friedman students during their long hours of work. If you are interested in becoming a DINE teacher this fall, please contact Mike Zastoupil (michael.zastoupil@tufts.edu) or Sam Hoeffler (samantha.hoeffler@tufts.edu) for more information. We hope you’ll join us this fall!

Excerpt from a thank-you card from a third grade student at Josiah Quincy Elementary School.

Excerpt from a thank-you card from a third grade student at Josiah Quincy Elementary School.

Mike Zastoupil and Sam Hoeffler are second-years who had a blast teaching for DINE last year and are now serving as the DINE coordinators. Mike is in the Agriculture, Food and Environment program, and Sam is in the Food Policy and Applied Nutrition program.

Summer, Sandwiches and Sticking Around: Interning in Boston

by Krissy Scommegna

Making the conscious effort to stick around Boston and be a part of the community isn’t necessarily what every Friedman student is looking for. Some see their time in Boston/Somerville/Cambridge as a stop on the way to their next big thing. However, taking the time early on to invest and become rooted here can open doors to incredible opportunities. Krissy Scommegna talks about how a class at Friedman led to finding an internship and eventually to her appointment as the Director of the Somerville Backpack Program

It’s a typical Friday morning during the school year and at 5:45 am, my phone is gently reminding me that it is time to get up, down a few mugs of coffee, and jump on the orange line to East Somerville to make a few hundred sandwiches. Not what you expected as the classic graduate student experience? Me neither. Shockingly, graduate school is not all grabbing evening beers and having deep discussions about Farm Bill appropriations (sorry, first years!).

The truth is, I wouldn’t be getting up at such an unsightly hour on a day I didn’t have class if it weren’t for Food Justice, an Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP) class I took last fall that is cross-registered with the Friedman School. I fell hard and fast for the mission of the two organizations myself and five other students were assigned to work with that semester. My experiences working with Food For Free and the Somerville Backpack Program have considerably shaped my time in Boston, making it clear that Friedman was the right choice for me. Not only did the class help me secure a great internship, I landed a really incredible job.

Food For Free is a Cambridge-based food rescue organization that takes food that would otherwise be wasted and redistributes it to over 100 food programs and agencies throughout Boston’s emergency food system. As a group, we helped Food For Free develop the framework for an Emergency Meal Program for feeding students in crisis.

As the semester drew to a close, I knew I wasn’t ready to be done with this work. I asked Ross Richmond, Food For Free’s Community Partnership Manager, if I could stick around and work with him on the program for my Friedman internship. He obliged and from January to August, we piloted the Family Meals Program at Food For Free, taking leftover prepared foods from Harvard and Tufts dining halls, repacking the food into individual meals, and distributing the meals to people in need. Ross and I spent countless hours in a kitchen smashing up frozen blocks of rice with hammers, prying apart pieces of frozen roasted chicken with crow bars, and agonizing over the most appealing way to package and label the Family meals. Together, we produced somewhere close to 8,000 meals.

In looking for communities that would benefit most from ready-to-eat frozen meals, Food For Free became part of the Feastworthy coalition. This meant our Family Meals would go to feeding homeless families living in the State’s motel shelter system in Brighton. Feastworthy was made possible by the Allston Brighton Health Collaborative, Action for Boston Community Development’s Neighborhood Opportunity Center and their Motel Support Services, and Charlesview Inc. Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program also administered a study that tracked the health outcomes associated with program participation. Working with these different organizations was an incredible learning experience and I was able to understand just how difficult, but rewarding, it is to accomplish a task while staying true to the missions of five different stakeholders.

So what does this have to do with making sandwiches? Well, along with working at Food For Free, Ross Richmond founded the Somerville Backpack Program (SBP) in 2014, a program that provides students in need in Somerville with breakfast, lunch, and snacks on the weekend so that they are able to return to school at the start of the week ready to learn. I started volunteering each week with SBP, packing up bags of food, making too many sandwiches to count (actually – we did count and volunteers made 7,485 sandwiches over the whole school year), and connecting with parents and members of the Somerville community.

Students that participate in SBP are kids who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs and have difficulty getting enough to eat on the weekend. Each week, these students are sent home with a bag containing yogurt, oatmeal, two sandwiches, cheese sticks, applesauce, and two pieces of fruit. Last year SBP served an average of 131 kids a week at eight Somerville schools. At the end of the school year, SBP provided food for upwards of 171 students. Over the 2015-2016 school year, 5,260 bags of weekend food were sent home with kids.

There is something meditative about spending an hour or two after a long week of school putting two slices of turkey and a piece of cheese between wheat bread two hundred times in a row. That is what the Somerville Backpack Program became for me—a way to become a part of Somerville’s food assistance community and get outside of my graduate student bubble and mindset.

Ross and I became close friends, and when he and his wife were asked to relocate to Los Angeles for her job, he looked to me to continue his program. This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. So… I’m excited to say that I am the new Director of the Somerville Backpack Program. I really couldn’t be more thrilled about this new adventure and getting the chance to provide food for kids that really need it.

This year, we hope to expand our reach and provide food to 300 students in all elementary and middle schools in Somerville. In the fall, students from the Food Justice course will be working with SBP to develop an assessment tool to analyze food insecurity, specifically at the individual school level, to see if we are appropriately addressing need and proposing additional ways to help provide food for Somerville families. I hope to engage students here at Friedman, too; I’ll be organizing a sandwich-making afternoon one Thursday a month (details forthcoming).

Making sandwiches for Somerville students and putting together Family Meals are a bit different from my previous life of working as a chef in Northern California where I spent my evenings rolling out sheets of fresh pasta and plating up shrimp salpićon. Though it all boils down to one point. I’m realizing more and more that my passion is feeding people in any way I can. With one year at Friedman behind me and one more ahead, I’m finding a myriad of ways to make this happen.

Friedman has this incredible way of connecting you with opportunities and experiences you didn’t realize you needed or wanted. I came to school to move away from kitchen work, but the reality is that cooking is what I love and will always be a part of the work that I do. While I hope it becomes a secondary pursuit to a future in agriculture policy, I know my desire to cook for others will never leave me.

So if you have a free Friday morning, stop by Connexion at 149 Broadway in East Somerville (close to the Sullivan Square Orange Line Stop) from 8:45 am till 10:30 am and make some sandwiches, pack up bags, and help feed students at Somerville Public Schools. If you know me, you know there will be some great dance music to get your day started.

Krissy Scommegna is a second year AFE student who struggles to cook for less than 10 at a time. She is constantly thinking about food and if she hasn’t already, will probably try and convince you to volunteer at the Somerville Backpack Program or Food For Free in the near future.