Star-Bulletin Features

Wednesday, February 17, 1999

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Fourth-graders Elyse Takashige, left, and Tamiko Hobbs
explain how their fisherman -- made of healthy foods --
illustrates the theme "You Are What You Eat."

Cafeteria 101
By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Third-graders designed bookmarks in keeping with their theme:
Children Against Bad Snacks. This one is by Everett Ching.

At Ma'ema'e Elementary, the
lunch room is a place of learning,
as well as eating

By Betty Shimabukuro


Plan A: Give kids what they'll eat, even if it's fried and includes no plant material.

Plan B: Give kids what they need and hope they eat it.

Plan C: Teach kids about good nutrition. Then apply Plan B.

Gene Kaneshiro, School Food Service director for the Department of Education, believes in Plan C for all of Hawaii's 250 public schools.

Kaneshiro -- motto: "Students who learn to eat well, learn well" -- says its not enough to put balanced meals in front of children. If they're going to actually eat the food, it helps if they know why they should.

"The cafeteria is part of their education, not just a place to eat."

Key operatives in this effort are the cafeteria managers, who are leaving their kitchens to visit classrooms. In some schools it's a small-scale, casual thing, Kaneshiro says, in others it's huge.


Prime example: Ma'ema'e Elementary. At this school, nutrition looms large, due in large part to cafeteria manager Stephanie Koga.

"I feel that being a manager -- it's a total involvement," Koga says. "If I can be a part of the total curriculum -- this is part of my job."

Ma'ema'e just spent a semester on a learning unit called "Core of My Heart," which involved integrating nutrition into every subject area of every grade level.

And so, fifth-graders tackled geography and social studies by e-mailing students nationwide to learn about their states and their school lunches (all cost more, as much as $2 to our 75 cents; in Connecticut they get ice cream every day). They charted the favorite lunch at Ma'ema'e (saimin).

Sixth-graders practiced several skills with a thorough study of bananas, including a science project demonstrating whether a banana peel deteriorates faster in air, salt water, fresh water or dirt (after 14 days, dirt is winning).

Kindergartners studied protective foods, grew them -- in the KINDERgarden, get it? -- then used their harvest to make vegetable soup.

Fourth-grade Hawaiiana studies were grounded in reality as students received first-hand experience growing taro.

And that's only a small part of it. Kids flexed language arts, research, computer and math muscles, all the while divining which foods are friends and which are enemies.

They learned, fourth-grader Tamiko Hobbs says, to make better choices. "Instead of bacon, eat Canadian bacon. Instead of whole chicken, eat skinned chicken breasts."

Classmate Elyse Takashige says she learned to give cucumbers and tomatoes and chance.


"Core of My Heart" culminated with a huge show-and-tell last Thursday, when all the grade levels exhibited the results of their learning in the cafeteria, appropriately enough.

This is where it all began, with cafeteria manager Koga.

"Many times managers feel our job is just behind the line, but I don't feel that way," Koga says.

She regularly gives teachers lesson plans for teaching nutrition, taken out of "Learn from Lunch," a Department of Education resource guide that she helped create. After each lesson she invites classes into her cafeteria for demonstrations and food-tastings.

Every two years, she and the teachers develop a large scale project like "Core of My Heart," to really drive the point home.

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Jason Hirano shows off the taro plants in the fourth-grade
garden. Counselor Dennis Takatsuki, who grows taro on Kauai,
helped the students turn a barren area between buildings into a
traditional Hawaiian loi, using rainwater from the
cafeteria roof for irrigation.

Bottom line: Do nutritionally aware kids eat better?

Koga says when they learn about vegetables and grow them in the school garden, "they're more receptive to eating different types."

And she's made learning a two-way street, giving weight to students' opinions on school food. She's learned that kids will eat more if they have a choice -- a couple vegetables and fruits offered in a mini-salad bar, rather than a scoop of green beans plopped on every plate. They also like ordinary green salads, Koga says, provided they're served with a selection of dressings (she offers six).

The DOE's Kaneshiro says it's difficult to measure results, but he's found the effort pays off with elementary-age children.

"Just small, little bits of exposure -- that this food is good for you -- it influences kids at that age," Kaneshiro says. "Older ones -- they feel that we're conning them. So we have to find new techniques for conning them."


By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Stephanie Koga, cafeteria manager at Ma'ema'e,
reaches beyond the kitchen to teach kids nutrition.

Does it work?

You can lead children to vegetables, but can you make them eat?

University of Hawaii researchers studied that question by examining "vegetable plate waste" at Farrington High School two years ago and Manoa Elementary last year.

Measurements were taken before and after nutrition education was offered in classrooms, and after students were consulted about what they'd like to eat.

The findings:

bullet At Manoa, students preferred having a choice of vegetables, rather than being served portions on their plates. They were offered two vegetables and had to take one. The result was about 25 percent less vegetable waste after the educational effort. The study followed second- and sixth-graders only.

bullet At Farrington, students were open to eating salad if they were given a choice of dressings in packets. The difference in waste was not statistically measurable, but researchers could see an "increasing trend" in vegetable eating.

Source: Dian Dooley, associate professor, science and human nutrition



Two literary approaches to the topic of bananas

By Ma'ema'e Elementary sixth-graders:

Banana Shot Gun

This is my banana --It isn't your banana
I got a shot gun --You don't got one
I'll blow your head off
If you don't give me
So just give me the banana
Or I'll bop you in the face.

-- By Travis, David, Justin, Gerry and Matthew

Tropical Banana Day

Watch the bananas fall off the tree
I like them because they're so yum-my
Soon the Chiquitas will catch the wave
Then the Williams will steal the babes
Healthy! Nutritious! Potassium! Vitamins!

-- By Keri, Lora, Suzanne, Paige, Natasha and Kelli-Ann


Snack food
for kids, by kids



Part of studying good foods is learning how to eat them. These recipes were compiled and tested by students at Ma'ema'e Elementary.


Breakfast in a Glass

Samantha Kojima and Jilliann Wong

2 cups skim milk
2/3 cups cooked quick oats
2-4 tablespoons sugar or honey
2/3 cup fresh or frozen fruit
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup low-fat frozen yogurt

Put all ingredients in a blender and mix for 1 minute. Serves 2.

bullet Approximate nutritional analysis, per glass, using bananas: 390 calories, 3.5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 180 mg sodium.*


Banana Sherbet

Sixth-grade students

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
2-3 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup mashed bananas
2 egg whites
Pinch salt

Mix ingredients well and freeze. Makes 2 cups.

bullet Approximate nutritional analysis, per 1/2 cup: 250 calories, 0.5 g fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, 100 mg sodium.*


Baked Coconut Mochi

Stefanie Chong and Joshua Oreta

2 10-ounce packages mochiko
1 pound light brown sugar
1 tablespoon baking soda
1 12-ounce can coconut milk, with water to make 4 cups
1 tablespoon sesame seeds

bullet Coating:
1 cup sugar
1 cup kinako
1 teaspoon salt

Mix all ingredients except sesame seeds and pour into a well-buttered 9-by-13-inch pan. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees 45-60 minutes. Cool, then cut into pieces. Makes about 45 pieces, roughly 1-by-2-1/2 inches.

Combine coating ingredients and roll each piece in coating.

bullet Approximate nutritional analysis, per piece: 120 calories, 2 g fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, no cholesterol, 140 mg sodium.*

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