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Guest Blog: Eat Smart NY in Schools and the Community

Written by Kayla Slater, MS, RDN, CDN, Senior Nutritionist for North Country ESNY

“I really liked the cabbage stir fry Mr. Marcus made for us!”

” I learned today what vegetables grow underground and what vegetables grow above the ground!”

“I have never tried cabbage before, now I’m going to ask to have it at home.”

This is just a highlight of the impact ESNY nutrition educators have on our youth. These quotes are from K-6th students at Albany Street Elementary School in Utica, NY. Students love when an ESNY nutrition educator comes into their classroom to teach them about healthy foods and show them how to make a recipe highlighting the “Harvest of the Month!”  

The “Harvest of the Month” is an initiative modeled after the California Department of Public Health and has been used in the Utica area with local schools, BOCES, Farm to School, and Eat Smart NY. Each month, the local schools highlight local produce in season on the school menu and Eat Smart NY helps promote this by talking about the local produce in the classroom as well as making a recipe to show the students how to make a new recipe and allow them to try something new.

For the upcoming months ahead, we will be highlighting beans/legumes, greens, strawberries, berries, and tomatoes! Since April is coming up and we will be highlighting beans for our “Harvest of the Month” here are some fun facts about beans:  

Did you know?  

  • Beans have been around for thousands of years – they were brought to the Americas in the 1900s.
  • Dried beans are in the legume family.
  • Beans are seeds since they are grown in pods. Usually, just the seeds (beans) are eaten.
  • There are many varieties of dried beans including black, kidney, garbanzo, black-eyed peas, lima, etc.
  • Beans are a good source of plant protein.
  • A serving of beans is a ½ cup of dried beans (about one cupped handful).
  • Beans are usually planted in Spring or early summer and available.
  • You can buy beans at the grocery store dried or canned. You must soak dried beans for at least 8 hours or overnight before eating them to break down indigestible sugars.
  • You can add cooked beans to salads, make bean dip, or add to chili/soups.
  • Beans are a unique food because they can be counted in the Vegetable or Protein group.  

Try a new bean today! You might be surprised you like it! For ideas on how to use beans in recipes, check these recipes out:

Chunky Black Bean Dip: Serve with your favorite fresh vegetables for a healthy and nutrient dense snack after school! Or try a Pinto Bean Salad: This salad incorporates beans and apples together for a sweet punch! You might not think this sounds like a good combination, but you never know if you’ll like it until you try it!

We also love giving out ChopChop magazines because of all the recipes! At our adult events, parents love taking them to give to their children. They also make great giveaways at Wellness fairs. And when we put them on our table at wellness and health fairs, the pictures catch the guests’ eyes. They make a great eye catcher and conversation starter. We may ask if they ever heard about the recipe or if they like to try new recipes. People seem to always be interested in new recipes!

About Eat Smart NY: 

Eat Smart NY does a lot in schools, but we don’t just educate in schools. The program provides skill-based nutrition education classes and sponsors obesity prevention events in local communities on a variety of topics like: healthy eating on a budget, smart shopping for vegetables and fruit, healthy meal planning, basic cooking and food safety skills, weight control and physical activity. We offer classes to SNAP-eligible individuals and families within 10 counties across the North Country region: Oneida, Oswego, Herkimer Lewis Jefferson, St. Lawrence, Clinton, Franklin, Essex, and Hamilton. We hope you will consider joining one of our local workshops! To find a class near you, check out our website under the Activities page tab at

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