Recently a corporate dining chef and a group of children from the Boys & Girls Club cut up fresh vegetables in the breakroom of Milliken, a global manufacturer headquartered in Spartanburg, S.C. The group was making salad on a stick, having fun and learning. This scene has taken place in different variations at 98 Bon Appetit, part of Compass Group, B&I and education accounts in 72 cities.
Through Bon Appetit’s Healthy Kids program, B&I accounts partner with organizations like the Boys & Girls Club, including Big Brothers Big Sisters, YMCA, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts and Urban Ventures. Since the seeds were planted for the program in 2015 on the West Coast, more than 10,000 kids have attended a class.
Participating accounts include Best Buy headquarters and Target headquarters, both in Minneapolis, Adobe, Oracle, the Kauffman Foundation and many more. Throughout the year, a Healthy Kids class is taking place at a corporate account every week. Milliken has hosted four classes so far.
Classes, which run about two hours, include plenty of fun stuff (costumes, games) but the kids also learn where food comes from, healthy eating and cooking. Working with a dedicated Healthy Kids educator from Bon Appetit, chefs and culinary staff from the accounts teach kids—usually from the elementary school grades—basic culinary skills, hands-on gardening and hopefully a lifelong love of learning about the food they eat and being open-minded to trying new foods.
During the Milliken class, Executive Chef Joey Pearson taught the kids basic knife skills (using kid-safe cutlery) and how to make a simple vinaigrette for the salad on a stick. Corporate dining chefs have lots of skills to share with kids, including measuring ingredients, peeling, ribboning and spiralizing veggies, juicing citrus and making dough.
Pearson encouraged the kids to taste the ingredients as they worked. A couple of items were new to the group: acorn squash and pomegranate, both of which—the kids learned—are in season now.
Other new ingredients kids have tried in the program include nopales, moon grapes, celeriac, fennel, kohlrabi, gooseberries and star fruit. If a Bon Appetit location has a garden, Healthy Kids educators transform it into an outdoor classroom with seed planting, scavenger hunts, herb tasting and making garden art, adding even more value to urban greenspace at a corporate headquarters.
Events like this help grow relationships between a corporation and its local community, Carey Lapidus, Milliken’s corporate hospitality manager, told news site GoUpstate.com.
“It exposes [the kids] to a company that’s in their local area and allows them to think outside of their day-to-day world,” Lapidus says. “To think, ‘There’s this big company that has a thousand associates who work right here in Spartanburg and their corporate office is here, maybe I could work for Milliken one day.’ It gives them the opportunity to dream a little bigger.”
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