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Real Men Cook for Kids—on Father’s Day and Year-Round!

Last Father’s Day, President Obama challenged American fathers to take time for their children. He has said that being a father to his two daughters is the most important job he has. In Chicago, one organization of talented fathers is rising to that challenge and using their time to tackle child nutrition issues.

Real Men Cook was founded in 2003 to highlight the importance of fathers who cook, and to introduce children to fruits and vegetables. Since the organization—which started in Chicago and is now established in nine other cities—has always emphasized healthy eating, its enthusiastic response to the President’s call was hardly surprising.

By cooking healthy meals for their families, Real Men Cook chefs, amateur chefs, and fathers alike are performing double-duty. But Real Men Cook’s efforts don’t only respond to the President’s call for chefs to become involved with schools, they are also at the heart of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative.

In 2010 First Lady Michelle Obama announced that America needed everyone’s time and talent to solve the childhood obesity epidemic. Since then, talented and motivated individuals and groups from across the country have joined the cause.

As part of the campaign, the First Lady asked for the involvement of chefs, recognizing their deep knowledge of food and nutrition and their standing in their communities, not to mention their “cool” factor! And Real Men Cook, along with hundreds of organizations and chefs across the country, responded with gusto.

Students at Chicago’s Kwame Nkrumah Academy pose with Real Men Cook’s Marvin Brown during a recent Chefs Move to Schools event.

Real Men Cook participated in Chefs Move to Schools events, partnering with Healthy Schools Campaign, a national organization that advocates for policies and practices that allow students, teachers and staff to learn and work in a healthy school environment. Chefs from Real Men Cook recently visited Chicago schools, conducting cooking demonstrations, leading veggie tastings, and providing healthy eating lessons—all while serving as role models and spokesmen for healthy cooking and eating. One chef’s creation, a black-eyed pea and turkey chili, even merited a mention in the city’s largest paper, the Chicago Tribune.

Having attended a number of Chefs Move to School events, I’m always struck by how the students respond to the chefs. Children sit in rapt attention, ask questions, laugh, clap and, most importantly, experiment with and come to embrace healthy foods and cooking.

Because of the efforts of organizations such as Real Men Cook, Healthy Schools Campaign, Chicago Public Schools and chefs on this Father’s Day and throughout the year, Chicago’s children will live longer, healthier lives—a firm foundation for them and America to win the future.

Chef Shania, a student, enjoys a healthy cucumber at the Chefs Move to Schools event.