Chef shows off for school employees

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 28, 2011

By Sarah Campbell
KANNAPOLIS — Kristen Weber will soon be sharing a couple of new recipes with her life skills classes at Kannapolis Middle School.
She’ll be teaching them how to create healthy dishes she learned to assemble during a healthy cooking demonstration by chef Mark Allison
Allison, dean of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University’s Charlotte campus, gave an audience of about 50 Kannapolis City Schools’ employees a peek at how to make nutritious meals Thursday.
He said the key to a lip-smacking healthy meal is simple.
“Buy the freshest ingredients you can find, go to the Farmers Market and support your local economy,” he said.
Allison said people shouldn’t shy away from making more complicated meals just because they don’t have gadgets like a melon scoop or garlic press.
“All you really need is a good knife,” he said.
The demonstration was part of the school system’s new Employee Wellness program, which launched Jan. 10.
Dr. Pam Cain, the district’s superintendent, implemented the program to get employees to improve their wellbeing through better nutrition and exercise.
“I want us to model healthy behavior for our students, but I also want our staff to know that we care about them as people,” she said.
Cain is also hoping the program will be a springboard for student wellness.
When the Biotechnology Academy at A.L. Brown High opens in August, it will include a health center where students can get sports physicals, nutrition counseling, immunizations and health risk assessments.
“My vision is for all ninth-graders in Kannapolis City Schools to create their own wellness plans …,” Cain said. “The statistics on childhood obesity get worse every day and we want to reverse that trend.”
The school system is partnering with Carolinas Medical Center-NorthEast to provide the comprehensive program free to employees.
Participants can join the 411 Fit website to track their daily food consumption, receive exercise and nutrition tips, and monitor exercise amounts.
“When we take care of ourselves, we become healthier and happier, and that’s what I want for everyone in Kannapolis City Schools,” Cain said.
Participants who meet the weekly walking goal of five miles are registered to win prizes such as movie tickets and gift cards, which have been donated by local businesses.
“The community has really gotten behind us,” Cain said.
Cain said the goal isn’t necessarily to promote weight loss, but overall health, including stress management, disease prevention and emotional wellness.
Employees welcomed the challenge of monitoring their diet and counting their steps by receiving a free water bottle and pedometer.
“I love the wellness program, I think it’s fantastic,” Weber said. “It’s actually motivated me to get my butt in gear and exercise.”
Weber’s been working out with a group of teachers in the weight room at Kannapolis Middle.
“I actually canceled my gym membership because I can just work out after school,” she said.
Charles McKinley, English as a second language teacher at Kannapolis Intermediate, said he meets the weekly walking goal by walking his dog every day.
“She loves it so that’s another incentive,” he said.
Jodi Horne, a teacher assistant at Kannapolis Intermediate, said 411 Fit provides a daily health score from A to F.
“I’m motivated by the scores,” she said. “It’s keeping me on track because I have to enter every single bite that I put in my mouth and work on getting my steps.”
The team aspect of the initiative is another plus in McKinley’s opinion.
“It’s a nice focus to know that everybody else is doing it, it’s an incentive,” he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.