Students from Waldo County Technical Center culinary arts program recently prepared nutritional offerings alongside food service workers and fourth-grade students at East Belfast Elementary School.

The entire school was treated to pizza made without flour. The crust was made of riced cauliflower and other ingredients to which the students added their own artistic bent. In addition, older students helped the younger culinarians learn how to handle a chef's knife and other kitchen gadgets to prepare apple-cucumber salad and fresh fruit cut in a variety of shapes.

May 15 was Food Revolution Day, which was originated by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. With diet-related diseases rising, it has never been more important to educate children about food, where it comes from and how it affects their bodies, according to Oliver.

May 8 was Chefs Move to Schools Day, which focuses on the interests and expertise of each chef volunteer and the needs of each school. There are many ways the partnership can work to positively impact the eating habits of children. Chefs Move to Schools is built around three tracks — the classroom, the cafeteria and culinary training/demonstrations.

Andrew Hutchins, education specialist in child nutrition for the state of Maine, asked WCTC Chef Mark Hannibal if he would be willing to participate in the Chefs Move to Schools Day. Hannibal already was preparing something for Food Revolution Day, so Hutchins' request couldn't have come at a better time.

"We had a great time working with the fourth graders and the ladies in the kitchen at East Belfast Elementary," he said. "The kids were open to trying new things because of the culture that has been cultivated there by introducing new food items for them to try during the school year. I was very impressed by the willingness [and] adventurous spirit of the younger students. We are already making plans for next year's event….

"Obesity and malnutrition is a major problem, especially in the lower-income range," Hannibal explained. "Despite the relative luxury of some coastal communities, this geographic area is ripe for some education about how to make healthy food choices, and have it not be a sacrifice, but a preference."

The chef and his 12 culinary students prepared for a couple of weeks in advance, researching and practicing recipes as part of their class, and working with local nutritionists and school personnel who were instrumental in anchoring an elementary school that wanted to be involved.

Hannibal offered his thanks to Linda Hartkopf and Perley Martin of RSU 20, and the women at East Belfast Elementary.