Obesity is an ever-growing health concern for parents in the United States. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that prevalence of obesity in children aged 2 to 19 years old is still at a high 17% or nearly 12.7 million children and adolescents.
One culprit is the unhealthy diet that children have during lunch breaks.
There have been concerns that the National School Lunch Program or NSLP, a government-assisted meal program which provides low-cost, free lunches to children every school day, has failed to meet the dietary requirements of school children.
In Washington, a 31-year old chef has returned home with the aim of helping institute healthy lunches in the state.
Daniel Giusti, who served as the chef de cuisine of Noma in Copenhagen for three years, has returned late last year with the vision to help make radical
changes in school food service.
Instead of putting up his own restaurant, Giusti hopes to feed children for a measly $3 each. More importantly, the top chef envisions that school children
will be eating cheap but very nutritious meals during their lunch breaks.
It’s a big challenge for the chef, who left Noma after serving there for more than three years. He is, after all, best known for helping the said
establishment become the best restaurant in the world according to Restaurant Magazine in four of the past five years.
But Giusti is no ordinary chef. In 2011, he abruptly left 1789, a fine dining restaurant in the Washington area. It was a leap of faith for Giusti, who
left the Clyde’s Restaurant Group that gave him the career break when he was named executive chef at the tender age of 24.
Giusti took the chance at an apprenticeship at Noma without pay and no guarantee of a full-time gig. Two years after leaving 1789, Giusti was running the
show in Noma. He replaced another American as the chef de cuisine in the Copenhagen-based restaurant.
Many people who know Giusti believe he has what it takes to take on the challenge, and succeed. After all, he was considered the best in the world having
led Noma to the top spot in four of the five years he was in Copenhagen.
His achievements made him an ideal target of investors, who were looking to open a restaurant with him on the helm. But Giusti had other ideas in mind.
Giusti had always wanted to feed the masses, and not just the privileged few who could dine at Noma where the tab can reach $800 for two people. In his
mind, there has to be a way to feed the masses with good quality food at prices that they can afford.
He realized that unless a restaurant can match up with McDonald’s prices, it would only be about adding calories to the diet without improving its
He adds that he could teach schoolchildren about good quality food, how to cook and prepare it, and preach them how to make better dietary choices in life.
The chef has been working with organizations that like him are committed to improving school meals. He has investigated the work of groups that have been
at the forefront of introducing healthy foods in schools.
One of those groups is Revolution Foods that started with a charter school in Oakland, California. The said group now serves more than a million meals per
week in 15 states.
With his firm, Brigaid, Giusti looks forward to building whole new kitchens and improve those at schools. He also plans to hire professional chefs who can
work full-time. His company’s approach would vary from other chef-oriented projects like the Chefs Move to Schools program of First Lady Michelle Obama.
He says that his crew will work daily to address the dietary issues, and not once a week or a month. Giusti says that one of the biggest hurdles to
providing healthy meals in school is the lack of kitchens, and this forces preparation of food elsewhere.
Of course, the problem or challenge would be capital investment. Getting experience chefs and kitchen equipment would come at a cost. Giusti understands
those challenges and looks forward to solving them.
For starters, the accomplished chef says that there have been parties interested in investing in Brigaid. He adds that he wants to start small, just the
way Revolution Foods did. Giusti hopes that his crew will have a pilot program in place by the fall of this year.
He also knows that he is in for the challenge of his life. He understands that it can be very difficult to provide good quality school meals at very low
prices. He knows, too, that he is taking on a very risky proposition.
“This is worth it,” he simply ends.