Chef Patrick Brings Fruits, Vegetables to Life to Engage Kids
To many kids, vegetables are villains and fruits are foes. Patrick Sandoval, an ARAMARK chef at the Pflugerville Independent School District near Austin, Texas, encourages children to eat healthy foods by turning vegetables, fruits and other not-so-popular healthy foods into heroes.
“Chef Patrick,” who holds a degree in nutrition from Johnson and Wales University in Providence, RI, said he was inspired to start the program after he made a career move into school dining service.
“Once I started talking to the kids, and seeing what they ate, seeing obesity and diabetes in six-, seven-, and eight-year-olds, for me it was about extending the cafeteria into the classroom,” he said.
Chef Patrick conducts live, entertaining and engaging cooking demonstrations in schools and at afterschool programs, as well as at health fairs and other events. He calls his food friends “Chef Patrick’s Pals” and creates lives for them, like the banana, berry and yogurt antioxidant superheroes in his smoothies.
“At first, the kids get really excited because they are going to eat something. Then, I start asking basic questions about what’s healthy. I try to help them understand that eating better will make them better students and better athletes,” he explained. “They even get a simple recipe to take home.”
His efforts also link to the USDA’s new MyPlate program.
The interest and excitement around his shows has created a high demand. Teachers sometimes link his program to other nutrition programs, like offering a visit by Chef Patrick for the class that has the highest number of students eating breakfast at the school.
“We expect them to know math, science and history, but they need to learn how to eat, too. I wanted to teach them, not just feed them,” he said.