At a glance . . .
Recipe for Success Foundation was founded in 2005 by Gracie & Bob Cavnar to combat childhood obesity by changing the way children understand, appreciate and eat their food and educate and mobilize the community to provide them with healthier diets.
Over 23 million American children are obese, on the path to becoming obese adults with life-threatening chronic diseases. Obesity has many causes, but research identifies the major culprit as the food we eat and the way we eat it. The loss of connection with food sources, reluctance to eat fresh fruits and vegetables and reliance on processed fare are some of the key contributing factors.
We knew that creating a successful replicable behavior modification program in Houston could impact the whole country, potentially save billions in healthcare costs and rescue an entire generation of Americans. The centerpiece of our work is Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™, a comprehensive school based curriculum.
With professional chefs, scientists, nutritionists, gardeners and teachers, we developed grade specific, hands-on coordinated learning in garden and culinary classrooms that puts children in touch with their food from seed to plate. Every gardening and cooking lesson is connected back to core curriculum with complementary worksheets in math, science, language arts or social studies tailored for PreK-6th grade students.
After just one year with us, children are eating an average of 30% more vegetables, demonstrating a clear understanding of healthy eating and taking their new skills and knowledge home to indoctrinate the entire family. We impacted over 20,000 Houston children, before answering a 2010 request from the White House to take our programs to national scale. In 2012 we made RFS Affiliate Partnerships available to schools across the country. We train and certify their instructors and provide extensive curriculum support, resources, expert advice, tools and dynamic monthly lesson plans via the web.
In Houston, our goal is to expand our Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ program to every elementary school in the 13-county region, and to empower Houston parents and caregivers with the tools they need to provide healthier diets for their children. We conduct parent cooking classes, work site wellness programs, robust community education campaigns, publish books and videos, and collaborate to foster urban agriculture and solve food access solutions with projects like the VegOut! Challenge, the Eat It! Food Adventures children’s book series and television show, Hope Farms urban agriculture and Rolling Green Market. We are changing lives by making healthy food fun, tasty, affordable, easy and accessible.
Our vision is to establish a national model that promotes healthy eating as the norm and creates a culture where nutritious food is shared, appreciated, and celebrated.
Hands-on Cooking & Gardening
Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ We make healthy food fun with our signature, hands-on Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ curriculum, for 4-12 year old students developed with help from professional chefs, gardeners, nutritionists and teachers. The largest program of its kind, RFS has reached over 25,000 children with an integrated schedule of classes in the garden and kitchen. We have documented: significant improvements in nutrition knowledge, increases in consumption of fruits and vegetables, and a greater willingness to try new fruits and vegetables. In 2010, RFS was asked by the Obama administration to bring our successful programs to national scale prompting the development of RFS Affiliate Partnerships which launched in 2012, underpinned by rigorous instructor training, certification and ongoing support to ensure results are consistent with historic achievements. Our curriculum has been codified and extensively tested to produce a comprehensive online S2P Instructor Guide with hundreds of class content options designed to relate to harvest schedules, grade-level core learning objectives and a variety of delivery schedules and rotations. S2P Programs are briskly expanding to every school district in the Houston area, and to schools from coast to coast who have become Recipe for Success Affiliate Partners.
Eat This! Summer Camp™ prepares kids to become savvy food consumers. In programs ranging from 5 days/36 hours to 20days/120 hours 8-15 year old students cook, garden and learn how food producers develop and market products to the American consumer. Their experience culminates with a project to turn the bounty of their summer garden into a
healthy marketable prepared product. This program can be adapted for after-school or embedded into the school day to extend the lesson into a year-round opportunity.
RecipeHouse is a fresh and inviting space perfect for cooking classes, seminars, team building opportunities and special events for up to 24 people. Located in the Museum District, our clean, open kitchen and dining area offers a change of scenery for business meetings, staff gatherings, birthday parties, showers and holiday parties. RecipeHouse also plays host to exclusive dinners presented by members of the Foundation’s Chefs Advisory Board, which includes high profile culinary stars from Houston and around the country.
My Favorite Holiday Food Annual Story Writing Contest
(est 2013 participants = 1000 in October) Created to help focus kids on the importance of building family food traditions, while at the same time giving them practice using writing skills measured by state tests. Fourth grade students write about their favorite family holiday food brought alive with the recipe and preparation, enhanced by colorful descriptions of how it looks, smells, and tastes. Students explain how the recipe became a family tradition and often provide colorful cultural history and family anecdotes. Teachers use the contest as a classroom tool to practice creative writing devices, and students spend more time with their families and gain a deeper understanding and pride in their traditions. The grand prize winner, chosen from among all school winners by Houston’s Poet Laureate, Gwen Zepeda, gets to be Chef for a day with Chef Neil Cox at the Houstonian.
VegOut! Principal’s & Faculty Challenge RFS focuses on elementary students, but our annual VegOut! Principal’s & Faculty Challenge places their teachers and role models in the spotlight. The contest dares participating faculty and staff to eat more fruits and vegetables and report their daily progress to their students who hold them accountable and urge them to stay on track to win. The role reversal excites everyone involved, initiates a campus-wide focus on healthy eating and strengthens relationships between the students and faculty by promoting teamwork and solidarity. Winners are acknowledged on each campus and a the Principal with the highest percentage of faculty and students participating earns a grand-prize.
Healthy Community Call to Action
Veg Out! 30 Day Challenge Researchers say there is no better way to embrace a healthier lifestyle than to eat more fresh produce. The VegOut! Challenge supports efforts for families and individuals to eat healthier by making it an adventure, the same way we entice kids to try healthy foods. Regardless of participant motivation – the fun of competition, the exploration of new food, or a personal focus on healthier eating – the end result is the same: A behavior repeated for 30 days becomes a habit. So, RFS says “Step up to the plate and pile it with veggies.” VegOut! is a year-round advocacy promotion supported by a dedicated website that culminates every March with a 30 Ways in 30 Days Challenge to eat thirty different vegetables within the month. The Challenge launched in March 2013 when thousands of kids, adults, employee groups and families participated. They were joined by local celebrities and community leaders including the Lt Governor Dewhurst and Mayor Annise Parker, members of the City Council, the HISD school board and media personalities, who all accepted the challenge to eat more veggies, which meant that National Nutrition Month reached entire new levels of healthy eating awareness in Houston. National partners have joined in to take VegOut! to whole new levels in 2015.
Garden Haikus for Earth Day Contest (est participants in 2013 = 2,500) To celebrate April, which is National Gardening Month and National Poetry Month as well as home to Eart
h Day, Recipe for Success gets poetic. The Garden Haiku Contest is meant to inspire Houstonians to think about their gardens as a source for food. RFS also uses it to further inspire a culture of health campus wide in the schools where we deliver our signature Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™. The contest is divided into three award-winning categories:Seeds (elementary school students), Sprouts (middle & high school students) and Blooms (college students & post academic entrants). All qualifying entries must be in haiku format and reflect a theme of growing healthy food or the general RFS commitment to “making healthy food fun.”
Farmers MarKIDS Days is a free, downloadable project-based curriculum with five lesson plansdesigned to teach children about the business of food by involving them in every aspect of creating a business to sell their home or school garden produce. It is important for all of us to understand where our daily meals come from. Students participating in Farmers MarKIDS will learn about our country’s agribusiness industry and how the food they eat everyday makes it’s way from a farmer’s field to the grocery store. Farmer’s markets are a vibrant sector of food distribution and the perfect framework for children to learn by doing. They are tasked with everything from assessing their products, establishing prices, advertising and promoting their market to managing transactions and calculating profit. This guide contains everything they need including downloadable graphics. In collaboration with the organizers of FoodDay, RFS promotes national Farmer MarKIDS Days for a week in October each year to celebrate and showcase the efforts of our young agricultural entrepreneurs.
Healthy Food Access
Hope Farms showcase is a fully functional, organic farm, designed to generate significant food crops in the midst of Sunnyside, one of Houston’s recognized “food deserts,” and provide small business incubation and workforce readiness training for urban youth and US Veterans. RFS will help secure and transform unused urban land into productive scale agricultural operations supported by training, mentoring and small business incubation for the new urban farmers in collaboration with established agricultural, business and academic partners. The new urban farmers are members of the Hope Farms Coop, designed to brand, promote and distribute their products throughout the city.
The Rolling Green Market is designed to deliver significantly reduced-priced, fresh fruits and vegetables directly to families who are now marooned in identified Houston neighborhoods that are known as food deserts, or who are otherwise considered to be suffering from nutritional insecurity. With cooking demonstrations and tastings conducted by a team of interns selected from the neighborhoods the truck serves, the RGM will encourage increased consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables and good nutrition to all Houstonians, empower caregivers to provide a healthy diet to Houston’s children, alleviate serious health risk and promote good nutrition. We hope it will be a national roll model that inspires similar initiatives throughout the country. Rolling Green Team members will be mentored by members of the Houston business community and benefit from course work at Houston Community College in a well-rounded workforce development program. The Hope Farms Rolling Green Market has recently won an award from the US Conference of Mayors, saluting it as an innovative solution to combat obesity in a large urban community.
Seed2Plate Press released its first book in September 2012 with 5,000 copies. Eat it! Food Adventures with Marco Polo is a series of adventure stories woven into cookbooks for kids written by RFS founder, Gracie Cavnar. Volume One: Leaving Home has garnered twelve prestigious publishing awards. The tale follows a pint-sized member of Marco Polo’s expedition who discovers wondrous foods in his travels. It features 29 kid-friendly recipes inspired by the food traditions of medieval Venice and Greece, an extensive pictorial glossary of ingredients, utensils and cooking methods along with a history of flour. Future volumes in this series will explore foods of the time in Persia, China, Southeast Asia, India and Turkey.
Other titles under development: Texas Farmtables–showcasing Texas farm families and their favorite recipes, I Hate Vegetables–a board book for toddlers, Ten Years of Small Bites– Celebrity Chef Recipes Created for Galas in Small Bites and The VegOut! Cookbook.
Eat It! Food Adventures Television Show is a weekly PBS series for children and their families under development as a 30-minute Saturday morning time slot in Houston on KUHT and syndication to partner PBS stations throughout Texas and the country. Anticipated initial viewership in Houston is 50,000 weekly viewers.
Featuring five host adventurers aged 5-11, Eat It! Food Adventures will return to the excitement of discovery, uncovering flavors and food traditions that celebrate our melting pot of cultures in Houston, while at the same time honoring the concept of locally grown, home cooked meals as a way to educate children about the importance of fresh foods, prepared from scratch and shared at table with family and friends. While the “secret agenda” is to combat childhood obesity by changing the way children understand, appreciate and eat their food, we will make it fun. Children talking to children: a food adventure! With initial adventures inspired by Eat It! Food Adventures with Marco Polo, the TV show is a perfect complement to the book series and interactive website. Each of the planned 13 segments will open in a resource point for fresh food, like the garden, a farm, farmers market, or in a specialty ethnic food store. The kids will explore what is seasonally available and bring their discovered bounty back to the kitchen where they will prepare a healthy dish from scratch. The website will feature podcasts, recipes, kid blogs, interactive forums and games to complement the series.