By producing articles such as this, dedicated writers like Sean Morgan extend the positive value of healthy eating to every member of the community. Thank you Sean and The New Era.

Chef presenter emphasizes good nutrition, having fun
By Sean C. Morgan Staff Writer, The New Era Newspaper

"I like to play with my food," Tom Ohling told a group of Hawthorne students on April 6 after asking how many of them have been told not to play with their food.

Ohling is a chef, trainer and speaker contracted through the Oregon Department of Education to give presentations to school children on nutrition. He gave presentations to students at Hawthorne and Oak Heights last week.

With an "education crisis" and a "money crisis," this is a simple way to improve the performance of children in school, Ohling said.

Ohling blended humor, hands-on activity and instruction into a presentation on good eating habits. His presentation culminated in a chance for the students to get their hands sticky making parrot sculptures out of oranges.

"How many of you would like your bodies and your brains to grow strong?" he asked. "How many of you want to get good grades in school? Now, how many of you would like to have fun doing it?

"That's what chefs do. They have fun," Ohling said. When people have fun, they eat better.

Ohling related how every night, whe'n he was a child, he would sit down to a meal with his family.

"I seem to remember every night, they would say, 'don't play with your food,"' Ohling told the students. "So I got back at them. I became a chef. I get paid to play with my food."

He enjoys making things with his food, he said. "I use my imagination when I have fun with my food."

As he talked to the students, Ohling carved the head of a bird from a slice of cantaloupe.

When he is using his imagination, Ohling said, he is using his brain.

Ohling continued to carve on his cantaloupe and launched into an explanation of the food pyramid.

He explained that the human body and brain needs a "good solid foundation" to grow and the importance of grain and breakfast in that role.

Each level of the food pyramid fits together, just like the pieces of the cantaloupe he was carving fit neatly back together, Ohling told the students. He continued describing the next levels, fruits and vegetable; protein and dairy; and the top, foods thai should be used sparingly including fats and sugars.

When persons eat is important, he said. "Eating breakfast is a very important part of our success at work and in school."

The earlier persons eat, the sooner a person's metabolism gets going.

Eating meals as families is also important, Ohling said. Of students who eat meals with their families at least four times a week, 60 percent realize improved test scored.

What Ohling does with food is make it appealing to the eye, he said. People eat with their eyes first.

They do not literally eat with their eyes, Ohling joked, but food is more appealing.

Ohling then assembled his carved cantaloupe into a bird. That was when the students went to work on their oranges under the guidance of Ohling.

The goal of the program is to encourage good eating choices, Ohling told The New Era, to encourage children to eat right and families to sit down to meals together.

Ohling also made a presentation to staff members on April 7, Pam Lessley, food services director for District 55, said. He focused more on the specifics of how nutrition impacts education.

Ohling serves as an independent consultant and is a teacher at the Western School of CulinaryArts, Lessley said.

Ohling has made presentations to 37 schools since December and more than 11,000 children, he said. "And we've been having a heck of a lot of fun."

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