2015 Kids Food Festival Celebrates Balanced Eating

This weekend, the 2015 Kids Food Festival will welcome families and children of all ages to Bryant Park to learn about balanced and health-supportive food choices. Highlights will include the Balanced Plate Scavenger Hunt, the James Beard Foundation Future Foodies Pavilion, and the Food Festival Main Stage, which will host cooking demonstrations, musical performances, and yoga demonstrations on Saturday, February 28 and Sunday, March 1.

Photo 8 - At the Kids Food Festival, families enjoy kitchen crafts
Families enjoy kitchen crafts at the Kids Food Festival.

“The more kids learn about how to make balanced food choices, the better,” says Cricket Azima, the founder of the Creative Kitchen, the producer and presenter of the Kids Food Festival. “At the Kids Food Festival, kids have the opportunity to taste, to smell, and to move their bodies. They are learning in a tactile way and having fun, so retention of the lesson is greater.”Photo 8 - At the Kids Food Festival, families enjoy kitchen crafts

Azima knows a thing or two about engaging children with food–as the founder of the Creative Kitchen, she teaches food and cooking classes to kids all over New York, starting from age 2 to teen. The Creative Kitchen holds cooking demonstrations and classes at Whole Foods Market, various schools and preschools, afterschool clubs, and at many special events for kids and families throughout New York City. The Kids Food Festival is “our baby,” Azima says.

This year, many notable chefs will host cooking classes for up to 50 children at a time. Daniel Holzman, executive chef and co-owner of The Meatball Shop, will be making salad, spaghetti, and meatballs. Gail Simmons, a judge on “Top Chef,” and former White House executive pastry chef Bill Yosses will be presenting both on the main stage and in the James Beard Foundation Future Foodies Pavilion. Azima will  host a Fresh, Flavorful and Fun Salsa demonstration with special guest Rohan Marley, who will be serving parents Marley coffee and helping children make reggae inspired T-shirts.

Azima’s demo will be an inclusion class for children of various mental and physical abilities, in line with Azima’s passionate belief that “everybody can cook ” and her corresponding curriculum. For this demonstration, she has adapted all of her recipes to be accessible to all children with of various developmental and physical abilities. This  demo will be accompanied by a guitarist who practices music therapy on the main stage.

Through this weekend’s festivities, Azima hopes to educate families on how to make good food choices through fun and engaging activities. A core component of this mission is the Balanced Plate Scavenger Hunt. When families arrive at Bryant Park, they’ll  receive a program brochure, with a choosemyplate.gov food guideline plate image inside. As families explore the festival, and engage with exhibitors and take cooking classes, they’ll receive stamps on their program brochure. Once their plate is fully balanced with stamps, they can show it to a team member to receive a goodie bag full of prizes.

Photo 3 - Cricket Azima, founder of The Creative Kitchen and Kids Food Festival, cooks with young chefs
Cricket Azima cooks with young chefs.

The Fest will also address the issue of childhood obesity on a few different levels.  Azima feels strongly about helping kids and families how to make balanced food choices on their own. She hopes that by partaking in the Balanced Plate Scavenger Hunt, kids will learn about making healthy choices,  appropriate portion sizes, what a balanced meal looks like, and how often they should eat. The Creative Kitchen has also partnered with a the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, and will donate a portion of the cooking class ticket sales to the organization.

“When it comes to cookies and cupcakes, we’re not saying: don’t eat this and do eat that,” Azima says.  “We are simply presenting an understanding of what is appropriate: how much, how often, and what the better choice is for you.”

General admission is free. To learn more about the Kids Food Festival, visit kidsfoodfestival.com