This week, we sat down with Gracie Cavnar, the CEO of Recipe for Success Foundation. Gracie founded Recipe for Success ten years ago after she became involved in a campaign to remove junk food vending machines from elementary schools in Texas because she knew the power of marketing to young children. During this campaign, she became aware of the childhood obesity epidemic and diseases related to weight issues. This prompted her to found Recipe for Success, and use her newfound knowledge of the diet-related issues affecting millions across America, as a way to change the minds of children about eating healthy food. Ten years later, Recipe for Success has grown to a national footprint, with many initiatives. They produce programs such as hands-on cooking and gardening, healthy community calls to action, school contests, healthy food access, cookbooks, and multi-media projects.
Cavnar worked with professional chefs, scientists, nutritionists, gardeners, and teachers to develop grade-specific, hands-on curriculum for learning in the garden and culinary classrooms. According to Recipe for Success, after one year in their Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education™ program, children are eating an average of 30 percent more fruits and vegetables.
In 2010, after seeing their impact on 20,000 Houston children through their Seed-To-Plate Nutrition Education™, the Obama administration asked Cavnar to expand Recipe for Success to a national scale. “It took us two years to really find a way to scale our programming in a sustainable way,” said Cavnar. In 2012, Recipe for Success launched their Affiliate Partnerships for schools across the country. “Now, you can become an Affiliate Partner, and we will train, certify and support your instructors with a robust library of curriculum, webinars, social sharing, and trainings,” said Cavnar.
“Since we have expanded nationally, the volunteer chefs engaged in Houston have reached out to their friends across the country, encouraging them to get involved,” said Cavnar. “Now, through our Affiliate Partnerships, we have a place for all of those chefs to directly engage and support our programming regardless of where they are in the country.”
One of Recipe for Success’ many programs is the Veg Out! Challenge. This challenge encourages everyone to eat more variety of fruits and vegetables. Veg-Out! is a year-round program that has a mobile application and website to support this challenge and track your veggie progress. “NIH research says that the fastest path to a healthier lifestyle is to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Cavnar. “We created VegOut! as a fun way to get people to eat more fruits and vegetables.”
Every March, a special 30 Ways in 30 Days Challenge celebrates National Nutrition month with prizes and a robust social media campaign to recruit participants. Join chefs, celebrities, community leaders, city mayors, athletes, and media personalities this March and VegOut! during National Nutrition Month. “I look forward to moving the needle toward a healthier life for all each day,” said Cavnar. “I love to hear about our new school partners and those that are now partnering with us for VegOut!”
In Houston, where their office is located, Recipe for Success has also been able to work directly with and affect the community around them. “Sometimes, we will send Chef Justin Kouri out to a local company to do a hands-on cooking demonstration, or they can to come to us, and we will do demonstrations in our Recipe House,” said Cavnar. In addition, plans are currently underway to open Hope Farms, an urban agricultural project located in an area in Houston that has limited healthy food access. Hope Farms will train US Veterans to become urban farmers and then support their new agribusiness with through their coop and they will grow and distribute affordable fresh produce to the neighborhood.
To learn more about the many other projects and programs Recipe for Success is involved in, including their summer camp, Farmers MarKIDS, and Hope Farms, visit their website.