Chef Lorena Garcia Schools Us On Childhood Obesity

How did you become concerned with the issue of childhood obesity?

Two of my nieces were having problems with obesity at a very early age, so I started cooking vegetables, couscous and salads with the girls. When we had dinner the kids were involved and even served themselves twice of what we had made. I also work a lot in the Latino market and visit all the major festivals in New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles. Almost every kid that I saw was overweight. It really got to me that we as a community have this serious problem. That’s what sparked the idea of doing something to address the issue of childhood obesity.

What are you working on right now to address this issue of childhood obesity among Latino youth?

I am currently running a program called “Big Chef, Little Chef”. The object is to incorporate children into the activities of cooking. We make healthier versions of the foods that kids already like. We incorporate better ingredients and lighter ways of cooking and engage the young ones. Us Latinos, when we’re going to cook we say, "OK guys! Go watch TV or play a game, I’m going to cook." In that sense we disconnect a little bit, and the end result is rejection of dishes like vegetables and kids are more likely to say they don’t like something before trying it.