JoAnne Viviano The Columbus Dispatch
Aug 31, 2018 at 5:02 PM Aug 31, 2018 at 6:51 PM
There‘s a little trick chef Jim Warner uses to get youngsters to eat their vegetables.
He sautes the vegetables in oil and then sprinkles them with a mixture of Splenda brown sugar and reduced-sodium Lawry‘s Seasoned Salt.
The sweet-then-savory taste has youngsters asking for more zucchini, yellow squash and red peppers.
Turns out the grown-ups like them, too.
About 10 people who gathered at the Bronzeville Growers Market on Columbus‘ Near East Side enjoyed a sample of the recipe Thursday as they watched a cooking demonstration via the Mobile Education Kitchen that was unveiled this spring by the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State University‘s Wexner Medical Center.
The massive food truck features appliances that allow Warner, who directs nutrition services programs at the medical center, to travel to neighborhoods, businesses, schools, festivals and other events and venues to tout the value of fresh fruits and vegetables in reducing cancer risk.
Warner told the Bronzeville group that the truck is meant to promote a plant-based diet.
“It doesn‘t mean it‘s going to cure cancer or if you eat certain foods it‘s going to prevent cancer, but if you eat certain foods it‘s going to reduce your risk of certain types of cancer,” he said. “Over 30 percent of cancers are related back to food.”
Educators address poor diet, excess weight and obesity, lack of exercise and alcohol consumption. They advise against eating fast food, deep-fried foods, processed meats such as hotdogs and other processed foods like boxed macaroni and cheese. And they make efforts to implement recipes that consider cost and time limitations, use in-season vegetables that people might have in their gardens and don‘t require unattainable equipment.
“It really is getting people to try these different things,” Warner said. “It‘s a matter of introducing individuals to the food that we‘re trying to present to them and encourage them to try it. Once they try it, you win them over almost immediately.”
Over the past 10 to 12 years, such education efforts involved toting food and equipment to churches or community buildings. The truck, Warner said, gives the program more visibility, piquing curiosity and attracting more people with its colorful fruit-and-vegetable motif.
On Thursday, chef David Brue, a Wexner culinary educator, had prepared bowls of sliced vegetables and measured-out ingredients such as vegetable stock, thyme, chopped onions and butter — in labeled, plastic containers.
He cooked up grilled vegetables, butternut-squash macaroni and cheese and eggplant pizzas, a recipe he added at the last minute after learning that eggplant was plentiful in the Bronzeville garden. Those gathered watched with the help of a microphone and speakers and cameras and monitors that offered an overhead view of his technique.
As Brue explained different cooking techniques, Warner offered up food-safety and storage tips, answered questions about the plant-based sweetener stevia and rainbow chard and encouraged observers to try at least one new food from the produce aisle each week.
When they were done, they received a thumbs up from a number of observers, who each had a taste of Brue‘s creations.
Nina Hill, a 64-year-old breast-cancer survivor from the West Side, said she‘ll rethink how she prepares her vegetables and try more red peppers and asparagus.
“It‘s very informative, and being that I‘m a cancer survivor it really does educate me into eating healthier, just stepping up,” she said.
Also a breast-cancer survivor, Marial Burr, 69, of the Near East Side, said the tips gave her ideas for preparing the many vegetables — including eggplant, tomatoes and peppers — that she grows in her backyard garden. She hopes to see the truck at more events.
“I thought it was outstanding,” LaDonna Prillerman, 75, of Berwick, said of the presentation and the samples. She liked the idea of mixing salt and pepper to reduce the amount of sodium in her diet.
Debuted in May, the truck was funded through a $500,000 gift by Celebration for Life, an annual event established and chaired by New Albany breast-cancer survivor and community activist Judy Tuckerman with her husband, Steve, of Tuckerman Development Co. home builders.
Money that the truck receives from visits to corporate events goes back to Celebrate for Life to continue the funding for the free community events.
Warner said the greatest successes come from making repeat visits to build trust and reinforce healthy messages. He referenced a pre-truck education effort that made eight weekly visits to introduce new foods to children at Columbus Bilingual Academy, prompting the leadership there and parents to replace the school‘s food vendor with one that provides more fruits and vegetables.
For years, Warner said, he worked to create good times for people through good food and beverages. While he still says food is all about having fun and conversation with loved ones, he‘s now focused more on helping people make better choices for better health outcomes.
“I‘ve been in the food business for my entire life, and this is probably the best part of my job,” he said.