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It's Time for 'Cooking with Kids at the Fair'!

Chefs team up with food, farms, and kids for even more activities

August 1, 2011 |


For Immediate Release
August 1, 2011

Diane Conners, Healthy Food for All Director
Michigan Land Use Institute
Phone: 231-941-6584 ext. 16
E-mail: diane@mlui.org • Web site: www.mlui.org

Traverse City—The Michigan Land Use Institute announces that its popular event, Cooking with Kids at the Fair, is back for a third year at the Northwestern Michigan Fair, from 3-7 p.m. on Aug. 10.

That afternoon, top local chefs will turn kids on to the tastes of locally grown food, a variety of organizations will offer a bushel of new activities, and families will head home with simple, seasonal recipes.

Inspired by last year’s Cooking with Kids Day, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network are adding a new activity to the event this year. Called “On Track with the Blues,” it links “getting physical” with healthy eating. Families who walk the entire perimeter of the Northwestern Michigan Fair grounds any time during Cooking with Kids (and get a card stamped at three stations) will receive special “dollars” to spend on local produce at the fair’s Taste the Local Difference farmers market. 

“The Michigan Blues are committed to getting people moving more and eating healthier.  We sponsor initiatives throughout the state that promote healthier lifestyles and encourage people to take personal responsibility for their health,” said Frank Smith, BCBSM northern Michigan sales & marketing manager. “Educating children about the importance of daily exercise and good nutrition is especially beneficial because it helps them learn and establish lifelong healthy habits.”

Throughout fair week, the farmers market also will provide new activities for families and kids: gardening fun, storytelling, and enjoyable ways to eat healthy and local with the region’s agricultural bounty. And, of course, the market will also offer fresh, local food to purchase and take home.

Children accompanied by an adult can join in on Cooking with Kids any time between 3-7 p.m. on Wednesday of fair week, in the fair’s gazebo. The market will be open noon-7 p.m. Monday through Saturday.

Taste the Local Differenceis MLUI’s food and farm program, and includes a printed and online guide that lists more than 250 farms in northwest Lower Michigan that sell their products locally. Cooking with Kids takes the idea several steps further by teaming up with area chefs who feature locally grown food in their establishments to showcase healthy, kid-friendly foods in a family-fun setting.

Chefs Eric Patterson and Jenifer Blakeslee, of the renowned Cook’s House in Traverse City, have participated each of the event’s three years.

“We think teaching kids at an early age the importance of eating healthy is vital, and having Cooking with Kids each year at the fair is a great way to introduce healthy eating to so many kids and their families,” Chef Patterson said.

Other chefs creating yummy creations this year are Laura McCain, a chef with Sodexo food service at Munson Medical Center, whose special Meet Your Farmer lunches regularly pack the hospital cafeteria; Glenn Noffsinger, chef at Crystal Mountain Resort & Spa; and two school cooks with Traverse City Area Public Schools, which operates an ever-growing farm-to-school program.

“Cooking with Kids has become as popular as cotton candy,” said Diane Conners, director of Taste the Local Difference’s Healthy Food for All program. “More than 400 people—children and their adults—streamed through the fair’s lovely cooking gazebo last year, double the number of the previous year.”

Cooking with Kids and the activities in the new farmers market tent are made possible by organizations that are members of the Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network.

Members who are helping out with this year’s expanded event are volunteers from area health departments, Head Start, MSU Extension, the Poverty Reduction Initiative, Northern Michigan Diabetes Initiative, Munson Medical Center, Traverse City Area Public Schools, Child Care Connections, and the Soil Conservation Service.

Cooking with Kids’ financial sponsors this year are Head Start, a public pre-school program run by Northwest Michigan Community Action Agency; and the Northern Michigan Diabetes Initiative.

"I love to help co-sponsor this event because it makes the food preparation process more real for children,” said Kathy Kundrat, Head Start director. “They can see the ingredients go together and taste the final product. They learn that food doesn't just come from a can or a box, but that someone has to prepare it. It's a creative and delightful way to engage children and their parents."

Diane Butler, manager of community health at Munson Medical Center, echoed those views. Munson is home to the Northern Michigan Diabetes Initiative, which is committed to prevention and better management of diabetes.

“Our youth are our future, and healthy eating is the first step in prevention of childhood obesity and Type 2 diabetes,” she said.

Businesses providing ingredients for the event include Cherry Capital Foods, Oleson’s Food Stores, and Oryana Natural Foods Market.

The Northwestern Michigan Fair is located at 3606 Blair Townhall Road, in Grand Traverse County. For more information on Cooking with Kids, contact Diane Conners at MLUI, 231-941-6584, ext. 16, or diane@mlui.org

For more information on the Northwest Michigan Food & Farming Network, visit www.foodandfarmingnetwork.org.

About the Michigan Land Use Institute
The Michigan Land Use Institute is a Traverse City-based, statewide non-profit organization working to help Michigan’s economy thrive and its residents prosper through close-knit towns and cities, a clean environment, and working rural landscapes. The Institute is the proud home of Taste Local Difference, a broad- based effort to grow jobs, build health, and protect land with food that is thousands of miles fresher. For more information, visit the Web sites www.mlui.org and www.LocalDifference.org. or call 231-941-6584.

Michigan Land Use Institute

148 E. Front Street, Suite 301
Traverse City, MI 49684-5725
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