VINTON–Bev Allman of Vinton recently received the “Cutting Edge Award” from the American Culinary Federation (ACF). The ACF is the largest professional chef’s organization in North America and a recognized authority on cooking in the United States.
However, Allman did not receive the award for her cooking skills, per se.
“The award is for involvement in innovative programming and ideas that bring culinary exposure before the public,” said Allman.
One goal of the ACF is to “foster, promote, encourage, and stimulate the awareness of proper nutrition in school children.” They financially assist organizations which support childhood nutrition programs to help children learn to cook and choose healthy foods. Nowadays children frequently are responsible for producing their own meals, and even cook for siblings, in single parent families, or in latchkey homes where both parents work at night.
Allman is a member of the local Southwest Virginia branch of the ACF. One of the programs they champion and support is “Chef and Child.”
In Roanoke City, “Chef and Child” has become a part of the 21st Century Learning Grant which sponsors afterschool programs for students at Round Hill, Westside, Hurt Park, and Highland Park Elementary Schools.
The 21st Century program is a United States Department of Education grant currently serving 13 schools in Roanoke City. The ACF and the 21st Century program, along with community partners, fund the “Chef and Child” program. The programs meet Monday through Friday.
According to Onawa Allen, the site manager for the 21st Century program, on three afternoons each week students work on reinforcement of basic skills, remediation of SOL skills, and homework assignments. The other two afternoons are set aside for enrichment activities sponsored by community partners from the YMCA, the Taubman Museum, Kimoyo, the Jefferson Center Music Lab, Sisters of the Circle, and the ACF Chef and Child program.
Each Friday, Allman, ACF members, and student ACF volunteers from the Virginia Western Community College (VWCC) Culinary Arts program, visit one of the four elementary schools to work with students from 3:30 until 5:00 p.m.
Mr. and Mrs. Eat Right (Allman and her husband Bradie) first teach the students a lesson on healthy eating by acquainting them with the four food groups. They also suggest ways to “switch out” healthier foods and ingredients for less healthy ones. During the course of the afternoon, foods from all four groups are sampled.
Then there is a cooking demonstration, followed by students practicing their own cooking skills. At the end of the session, students receive “Sacks of Love” filled with nutritious snacks and water to take home for the weekend.
The intention of the program is to turn students into “lean, mean, running machines” through exposure to healthy eating practices. Allman also does a little work on academic skills by incorporating questions on geography or math or vocabulary. During one Friday session, she covered the location of Peru by discussing where the protein of the day—quinoa—was grown; the meaning of “palate” with a discussion of taste buds; and several references to measurements during the course of the cooking demonstration and practice time.
March was designated as “protein” month, so the students were taught about non-meats like quinoa, pistachios, and black beans that are proteins.
Students from VWCC participate each week in the “Chef and Child” program as part of their community service requirement. They often help prep the foods at the college before they come to the school. Jim Zeisler assists with the program and is both the president of the Southwest Virginia ACF group and in charge of the Culinary Arts program at the college. This year VWCC student Nicole Chiavaroli is working with Allman to coordinate “Chef and Child”.
Allman has lived in Vinton for 35 years and has taught culinary arts for 37 years, with the past 27 spent at Salem High School. She retired last year, but has barely paused to take a breath. Her husband is retired from Lowe’s.
According to their website, www.swvaacf.org., “the Southwestern Virginia Chapter of the ACF is a culinary organization of professional chefs, cooks, enthusiasts, students and others engaged in the planning, preparation, service and supervision of foods and beverages in commercial kitchens, hospitality, institutional and educational establishments.”
In addition to their healthy eating programs for children, they aim to foster development of “creative dining venues to share skills and talents of the membership and a passion for the world of food and what it has to offer.”
The local ACF is becoming known for other programs they sponsor in the region, such as the recent Chocolate Festival at the Hotel Roanoke and their mystery “Adventure Dinners.” More information on their fundraising program for “Chef and Child” and on upcoming events is available on their website.