“Mission Nutrition”, Chef Tom's tour of Oregon

by Ron Brand, The Elgin Recorder

"It's the little differences that make life special," Chef Tom tells 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders at Elgin's Stella Mayfield.

With his booming voice, professional chef Tom Ohling kept the youngsters' attention as he showed them how to carve up oranges and cantaloupes and create familiar animals. He even showed them how to dismantle their carving projects and wrap them up neatly to take home.

Ohling's goal is to teach an understanding of the value of nutrition in education. He tries to get across three main ideas; you need grains with every meal, eat five servings of fruit and vegetables every day, the "high five," and be sure to sit down to eat with your family every day.

Ohling called the last of the three the most important, and not just for nutritional value.

"It has a profound effect on how kids do in school," he noted.

Ohling is traveling through Oregon under the auspices of the Oregon Department of Education.

He plans on visiting a grade school in every school district over the next 1 1/2 years. The tour is also being supported by school districts throughout the state. "Mission Nutrition" has already visited Imbler Grade School and Greenwood Elementary School in La Grande as well as Stella Mayfield in Elgin.

Ohling fills "Mission Nutrition" with health tips as he talks to the students and demonstrates how to make the fruit sculptures. Written instructions for the carvings also include the same health tips he wants them to remember.

"Kids can't learn if they're not getting proper nutrition," Chef Tom tells them, "If you are going to skip a meal, breakfast is not the one to skip."

Ohling, a professional chef from Portland, encourages students to bring a sense of playfulness and individuality to what they do. He mixes entertainment and information as he gets his message across.

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