The Chicago-based Eastman Egg Company has recently begun a program in which it uses its food truck during the off-season to deliver free snacks and nutrition lessons to Chicago elementary schoolers. It recently completed a 12-session program at Ray Elementary School on 57th Street and Kimbark Avenue.
“We wanted to do something with the food truck that was more meaningful and kind of develop a more philanthropic branch of the company,” fourth-year student and Eastman Chief of Staff Laurel Freidenberg said.
The truck comes to the elementary schools at 9 a.m. and kids line up to receive their snack: scrambled eggs with bell peppers, spinach, and a salsa verde.
“From the kids it’s been mixed, as you’d expect, on the food side,” Freidenberg said. “The coolest part has been hearing kids say that they hate red peppers or they hate spinach and then getting them to try it, and they eat the whole thing.”
After the snack, the students listen to a 15-minute presentation on nutrition tailored to their grade level. The younger children get a lesson on trying new things and the different food groups, while the older grades hear about seasonal eating and sustainability. After the lecture, the students have the chance to do nutrition-related activities and games with volunteers, and they receive recipes to take home and try with their families.
The Eastman Egg Company first developed the idea for the program when someone in a forum asked what the company did for the community. It decided that the food truck, which is normally used sparsely in the winter, would be an excellent vehicle for education and outreach.
“We all kind of have a shared passion for nutrition and education and making sure that’s accessible to as many people as possible,” Freidenberg said.
Providing food to public school students is a delicate situation when it comes to navigating regulations. The food truck cannot serve food at the same time as the cafeteria does, and the eggs have to be within a certain portion size so they qualify as a snack rather than a meal.
“Any food that you could possibly serve a kid is restricted in some way,” Freidenberg said.
The program has been a success so far, and Eastman is looking to bring the program to more elementary schools in the area. It has been tentatively discussing involvement with Burke Elementary School on the west side of Washington Park. It is also interested in working with medical centers to present a more medically detailed view of nutrition and implementing a work-study program of sorts for students interested in learning about cooking.