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Loveland’s Little Food Revolution By: Rod
6407 Branch Hill-Guinea Pike Loveland, OH 45140 (513) 683-2345
The Veg Head
920 Loveland Madeira Road Loveland, OH 45140 513) 697-7090
Loveland has it’s own little food revolution, Jamie Oliver style! Fans of the show (God knows there weren’t many) know the concept of Jamie’s Mission; educate schools on proper fresh food nutrition and stop the American obesity trend before it ever gets started. Jamie had little if any success here in the states with his efforts (England embraced it whole-heartedly). That was a shock and a disappointment to me. After he left, they probably went back to strawberry milk and Dino-Nuggets, they kids were free to resume their personal ballooning and the parents are off the hook. That’s sad.
Loveland’s Prodigy Pre-School owner Stephanie Shirley never saw Jamies show. But her views on child diet are directly in line with Jamie’s. Fresh whole food, chemical, additive and processed free, organic if possible and appealing flavors. Simple concept, yes, simple to achieve, no. Prodigy tried other food service providers with no success, some had too much styrofoam waste, some didn’t fit the bill at all. “It was frustrating..” She said.
Then Stephanie came about The Veg Head. The little Loveland eatery’s claim to fame is their whole foods menu. It’s additive/preservative free, organic when possible, extremely low waste (due to intense recycling), and appealing for certain (not to mention Heart Healthy certified in many cases). The Veg Head put together a menu designed to meet the criteria and the cost that Prodigy laid out. Prodigy’s new menu went into effect in October. 21 different meals are provided to the tots including; Wild caught Alaskan fish, Herb chicken, lasagna, stuffed shells, wraps, lots of fresh veggies (asparagus, broccoli, carrot & spinach to name a few) mixed green salads and fresh fruit and yogurt desserts.
It all sounds healthy but how do you get the kids to eat spinach? Take this dish for instance (pictured), it’s a stuffed shell dish with spinach & cheese, a meat tomato sauce with whole grain bread and fresh pineapple. The kids dug it. I doubt they even noticed the spinach. Several even commented to me “I like it, I love shells!”. The dishes are recognizable kid faves just done healthy. Pizza boats, Baked taco rolls, chicken noodle cheesy toast, pot pies, open faced Phillys all look like something kids normally eat. But what about asparagus? Simple, you sneak it in some quiche!
The menu is a work in progress. First the dishes are designed by Chef Mark at The Veg Head, then presented to Prodigy and finally it all goes to the kids for approval. The tricky part is balancing whole nutrition with costs and making it in a kid appealing form. The costs are the big factor. “This is something I really like doing, we want to work with schools large and small... the biggest challenge is providing a quality meal at costs that compare with the lesser quality food you usually see in schools. It’s the same as if you’re cooking at home, better ingredients are more expensive, but worth it” says Chef Mark.
Prodigy is making a small but highly educational and fun dent in the food costs, they grow food at the school. Outdoor gardens provided cucumbers, zucchini, watermelons, tomatoes, and honey dews this year. Indoor hydroponic gardens are sprouting now. Prodigy’s Dane & Joseph are the green thumbs behind the project. Seeds get started under a heat light in cups, then moved to the hydro pods when ready. They have a batch of watermelons just 1 week old now, in 90 days or less, they will be organic snacks for the kids. Cool huh.
Currently The Veg Head is providing meals for 75-80 kids a day, five days a week and on budget. But the budget is far above most schools accepted allowances. Chef Mark believes the key to success will come when other local schools participate, therefore increasing the total amount of meals and decreasing overall per student costs. If more schools decide to start caring about what goes in the meals they serve then the demand for this level of whole foods meals will increase and prices per student will decrease. It’s just like electric cars, they will be cheaper to buy if more people buy them. Right at this moment we are in a transitional stage on both. The products exist, but the consumer demand doesn’t.
It’s hard to believe the demand from parents that their kids be fed quality, additive/preservative free foods is in short supply. Most well known side effects of MSG, nitrates, phosphates and chemicals effect humans under 13 the most severely. Developing bodies are more suspect to the ill effects of chemicals. Long and short term brain and organ issues have been well documented and associated with modern food additives. The parents would sue if a school dished out alcohol, tobacco, marijuana or even aspirin to their kids unknowingly. But yet feeding them MSG, TBA, BHT and other dangerous chemicals is an accepted standard procedure. Stupid.
It’s a small food revolution but an important one for the 80 kids and parents involved. We think it’s worth mentioning and worth applause. It’s too bad with all the money spent on games and toys and clothes for kids, a little of it can’t be set aside for good food. Prodigy and The Veg Head are proving it is not only feasible, but delicious as well. What are your kids eating at school? Do you even know, or do even care. Care is what fuels a food revolution, it too seems in short supply.
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