Leading Chefs Collaborate for Wellness in the Schools

The WITS program, founded in 2005, now helps feed more than 34,000 children a day

A WITS chef recently hosted a Teachers' Wellness event in The Bronx.

This is the time of year when I start gearing up for Wellness in the Schools (WITS) annual gala. On April 18, chef partners, restaurants, fitness gurus, teachers, parents, and educational leaders will come together at Tribeca Rooftop in New York City to celebrate our work inspiring healthy eating and physical activity in public schools — and we have much to celebrate this year. WITS now partners with 75 New York City public schools, reaches over 34,000 children every day, and has served 11 million meals since the organization was founded in 2005. The gala is not only held to celebrate the successes of the past, but to also acknowledge the exciting things to come. Next year we’ll continue to grow in New York, while also expanding our national footprint in South Florida and Trenton, New Jersey (my home state!).

We've had the support of many chefs, who have helped WITS spread the love of nutritious and delicious food to these kids. These chefs go into our schools to do tastings and demos, they help out with WITS Cooking Labs, and they even invite kids to their restaurants for tours, demos, and a meal. The kids especially love it when they come to the schools. The chefs ask great questions and get the kids thinking differently, and in return, the kids are engaged and open-minded. The fact that they visit schools in their full chef's uniforms doesn’t hurt.

These chefs are also voices on policy. With reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act still getting bounced around Congress, they speak out about the importance of children having access to good, nutritious food, to help them grow and learn how to take better care of their bodies. One-third of our nation’s children are overweight and obese, and we have to change this. These chefs speak out on these issues and many others that concern not only our children, but also our environment.

All of these chefs will be attending this year’s gala: Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern and Untitled, who brings the staff of his restaurants regularly to do demos and teach at PS 3 and PS 41; Ivan Beacco, formally of Arqua, who helped out with the WITS Labs at PS 7 and other schools; Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter, who works with us at PS 11, in her daughter’s school; Josh Capon of Lure Fishbar, who always brings a big laugh to PS 40; the team at Chop’t, chopping away and talking gardens with the kids at PS 705; nutritionist and TV personality Ellie Krieger, who charms the kids at PS 75 with her words about eating well; the chefs from Little Beet, who go in monthly to PS 36 to do seasonal tastings from their delicious fast-casual spots; the team at Murray’s Cheese led by Elizabeth Chubbuck, showing the beauty and nuances of cheese to the children of PS 84 and PS 295; Ann Nunziata from the Natural Gourmet Institute, who goes all the way out to PS 89 in Brooklyn, to share her thoughts on vegetables; the guys at Restaurant North in Armonk, in Westchester County, who bring great enthusiasm to school in the South Bronx; Henry Reinhart of Henry’s on the Upper West Side, who brings his chefs into PS 145 with great flavors and the words of good food; Charles Rodriguez of Print who brings his foragers in and shows all the deliciousness of different tastes and helps with classes at PS 20 on the Lower East Side;

Dean Sheremet, who brings a big smile and big skills to the PS 333 hydroponic garden; the Union Square Hospitality Group, which brings a team to help with the Labs and are experts with the kids at Q & A in our New Settlement schools; the folks from SPE Certified, who bring healthy thoughts to PS 166; and George Weld and Evan Hanczor from Egg, who run marathons and talk of the benefits of a  good breakfast out in Brooklyn.


This crew takes action on issues that they deeply care about, helping WITS succeed, and, as business leaders in our community, not only provide a delicious experience when you visit their establishments, but are also helping to make meaningful changes for our next generation. Please support their establishments — if you are at the WITS event on April 18, please say hello to them (and their team) and thank them for all they do with the kids in New York City's public schools. I know I will.