'Food for Thought Expo' feeds appetite for healthy eating

Fairfield Warde High School was not in session Saturday, there was still a whole lot of learning going on at the "Food for Thought Expo."

The 4th annual event was presented by the Fuel for Learning Partnership, part of the Fairfield PTA Council.

"The event is coordinated along with representatives in each public school in town involved in ensuring that school lunches are the healthiest they can be and taste good, too," said Dr. Julie Rosenbaum, an expo volunteer. "We want the kids to have the energy they need to be as academically successful as possible. Every meal counts."

The expo activities and displays were geared to that end, including 60 vendors from farms, restaurants, foods companies and wellness professionals; a dozen workshops related to cooking, food preparation, gardening and making healthy choices.

"As a physician, I take care of patients every day who have high blood pressure, diabetes and other complications from obesity," said Rosenbaum. "Our community and the country as a whole is focused on healthier eating habits and encouraging positive conversation at the dinner table."

Tara Cook-Littman, the chairwoman of Fuel for Learning Partnership, said, "Food for Thought is designed to educate community members so that they understand why we're making changes to the school lunch program," she said. "In the last four years, Fairfield school lunch has gone from a predominantly processed food to made-from-scratch recipes, which is being very well received by parents and kids alike."

And, add Rosenbaum, "Another big step up has been the hiring in the past year of John Turenne of Sustainable Food Systems. Chef John, as the kids call him, helps design the menus, train staff and conduct culinary boot camps. He has become a celebrity."

Genetically modified organisms have become a hot topic among healthy-eating proponents. Whitney Riggs, the Hartford County leader for GMO Free CT, discussed her group's concerns at the expo. "I'm here to help pass legislation to label food products that contain GMOs, through education," she said. "GMOs involved taking DNA from one species and inserting it into another, in a lab. There's little testing and no long-term studies, and people have the right to know what they're eating. It's an important issue. Associated health risks may include allergies, gastrointestinal issues and auto-immune disorders. We're here to educate the community."

Integrative health coach Amie Guyette Hall was one of the workshop leaders at the event, showing people how to make healthy smoothies. "This is a privilege to utilize our school facility and see people in and out of the community coming to experience free food education," she said of the expo. "People are literally hungry for information on healthy eating. Everyone wants to know how they can improve their health, starting with food."