Local chef aiding Obama effort against obesity

A group of chefs from Connecticut who went to the White House to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama, left to right, Peter Gorman of Unquowa School in Fairfield, Jeff Borofsky of Wood Fired Mobile Pizza company, John Turenne of Sustainable Food Systems LLC, Tim Cipriano of the New Haven public school systems, Anne Gallagher of Anne Gallagher Catering and Plow to Plate, Mark Shadle of It's Only Natural in Middletown, Tagan Engel of New Haven, Jonathan Rapp of River Tavern in Chester, Thomas Peterlik of Yale University, and Tyler Anderson of Copper Beech Inn in Essex.
A group of chefs from Connecticut who went to the White House to meet with First Lady Michelle Obama, left to right, Peter Gorman of Unquowa School in Fairfield, Jeff Borofsky of Wood Fired Mobile Pizza company, John Turenne of Sustainable Food Systems LLC, Tim Cipriano of the New Haven public school systems, Anne Gallagher of Anne Gallagher Catering and Plow to Plate, Mark Shadle of It's Only Natural in Middletown, Tagan Engel of New Haven, Jonathan Rapp of River Tavern in Chester, Thomas Peterlik of Yale University, and Tyler Anderson of Copper Beech Inn in Essex.courtesy of Michelle Parr Paulson/Contributed Photo

NEW MILFORD -- Plow to Plate co-founder Anne Gallagher is on a mission -- to help bring fresh, local foods to the schools' lunch programs.

Gallagher was among 30 chefs from Connecticut who went to the White House on June 4 to meet with first lady Michelle Obama.

Along with 500 chefs from around the country, she heard firsthand about a program the first lady was initiating, Chefs Move to Schools.

"Michelle Obama was one of my heroes, and now she's up there as number one," Gallagher said Thursday.

"There has been an awareness happening for some time about childhood obesity and malnutrition and now someone with the strength and profile of our first lady has pulled a united program together."

Chefs Move to Schools is part of Michelle Obama's Let's Move campaign that aims to resolve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.

Obama presented her program to Gallagher and the other chefs gathered that day on the South Lawn of The White House. The "Office of The First Lady" site on The White House website contains the transcript of her presentation.

"Nearly one-third of children in this country are now overweight or obese. ... That means that these kids are at greater risk of obesity-related diseases ... cancer, heart disease, stroke," Obama said.

"Last year as a nation, we spent nearly $150 billion treating conditions like these," Obama continued, then called on the chefs across the country to join her to end this "epidemic."

Gallagher was joined by food-celebrities that day including Rachael Ray, Tom Colicchio and Cat Cora. There were chefs from restaurants, corporate executive chefs, and chefs from schools.

"My involvement with New Milford Hospital's Plow to Plate program and getting youth chefs preparing meals from farm-fresh local foods led to my invitation that day," said Gallagher, who was delighted to get a tour of the vegetable garden at the White House planted by Obama and youth volunteers.

Since returning from Washington, Gallagher has spoken with New Milford Schools Food Service Director Sandra Sullivan. The two are sitting down later this month to discuss possibilities for the food program.

"It's not that I'm coming in and taking over," Gallagher said. "It's that I'm offering my assistance to work in collaboration to help make better choices to feed children. That was a point the first lady stressed, this is to be a collaborative community venture."

Gallagher noted that many schools are adopting the philosophy of fresh, local produce offerings with small steps like salad bars. Gallagher, also a caterer, has always promoted local foods as much as possible, she said.

"I only use grass-fed beef for hamburgers," she said. "I'd never feed a child anything else."

Gallagher is available to discuss the Chefs Move to Schools program. She can be reached through the Plow to Plate program at New Milford Hospital at 860-350-7731, or www.plowtoplate.org.