Sam Graham of Saint Anthony Hospital works with parents to create healthy meals.
Sam Graham began his work with Saint Anthony Hospital as a nutrition educator to kids on the Southwest side of Chicago, where, he says, “I must admit that having a fourth grader report back that she drank water instead of soda this week made me feel so proud.” Most recently he took on a role with a wider focus, providing wellness consultation and coordination to nearby elementary schools and their School Wellness teams through a new initiative of the hospital. Here’s a great blog and recipe from Sam.
By Sam Graham
I’ve learned a lot from the moms, dads, community members, and school staff on School Wellness Teams. I’ve seen how a teacher, parent coordinator, principal, or secretary can be a driving force for healthy changes in their school environment. And I’m constantly impacted by the normally shy, soft-spoken parents who step up as voices for wellness in their schools because they care so much about their children and their community.
One ongoing conversation with parents on School Wellness Teams is their struggle to consistently provide healthy meals at home. Many different parents at many different schools share the same frustrations: lack of healthy meal ideas, kids who won’t try new foods, spouses who won’t try new foods, lack of time to prepare meals, the cost of healthy foods…
After we talk through an issue like this, teams come up with an action plan to do something about it. As a result of these conversations, we now have groups of parents meeting throughout our community to form what I think of as “pseudo nutrition support groups.”
When one of those groups in Little Village was unable to use school space for their healthy cooking group this summer, they weren’t willing to take the summer off. Parents started offering up their homes for the meetings, and pretty soon we were meeting biweekly to prepare (and eat!) healthy lunches together. Everyone is asked to share recipe ideas and pitch in to bring ingredients for our meals. While we dine, I provide short presentations and conversation starters on topics related to nutrition based on the interests of the group. One week we talked about the function of the liver in the body while we made a quinoa salad and a spinach artichoke dip. Another week we talked about blood pressure while we made a dish of lentils with couscous and tomatoes along with a delicious salad and homemade vinaigrette.
Check out the lentil and couscous recipe below. It’s one of my favorites. For the tomato juice, we found a low-sodium, spicy tomato juice that added a kick. One thing I always ask parents is to please not follow the recipe exactly as I wrote it. Be creative! Add ingredients you like or that are more convenient because you already have them in the cupboard. Take out the things you don’t like. Make it your own. Enjoy!
Lentils with Couscous & Tomato
1 tablespoon of olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Half of one onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups tomato juice or vegetable juice
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup lentils
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup couscous
1 tomato, chopped
chopped fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary, or cilantro
Heat the oil in a medium pot and sauté the garlic and onion.
Add the juice, water, lentils, bay leaf, salt, and pepper.
Bring to a boil, then lower the flame, cover, and let cook on medium-low heat about 30 to 40 minutes.
Remove the pot from the flame. Stir in the couscous, tomato, and herbs.
Let sit 5 minutes.
Uncover and stir.
Serve and enjoy!
Through its School Wellness Initiative, Saint Anthony Hospital is a key partner in the Go for the Gold Campaign, a Chicago effort to meet the challenge set by Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative. To learn more about Saint Anthony Hospital, click here. HSC thanks Sam for his story and recipe!