By Sajneet Kaur Chauhan, intern
The Healthy Local Food program at Armijo High in Fairfield brings together 30 students each week to learn about healthy, seasonal, local food in both the school garden and culinary sessions. The program is offered through two SuSol programs — Solano Gardens and Local Food Cooking Education — in partnership with Innovative Health Solutions, Armijo High School and the school’s multimedia and garden clubs. Students will share what they have learned through final multimedia projects. Here, student Sajneet reflects on a recent class. Follow the program’s progress on Instagram @healthylocalfoods and check out their in-progress website at healthysolano.com
Sajneet during the Armijo Healthy Local Food program / photo credit: David Avery
You might be wondering why I am introducing lentils. Lentils are a traditional food in India where my parents grew up. In our family we shop for lentils at the local Indian grocery store in Fairfield. When you enter the store, the smell of spices will ignite your senses and surely make you hungry. There are varieties of spices like turmeric, chili powder and cardamom. A few days ago, we cooked Mexican Lentil Soup in the Armijo High School Healthy Local Food program, and I was inspired to learn even more about lentils.
Lentils are low in sodium and saturated fat, and high in potassium, fiber, folate, and plant chemicals called polyphenols that have antioxidant activity. In my culture, pregnant women are recommended to eat lentils, especially sprouted ones, because they are rich in nutrients. These nutritional properties have led researchers to study their effects on chronic diseases. There are four main categories of lentils: brown, green, red/yellow, and specialty. One specialty lentil, the black lentil (beluga lentils) is the most nutritious variety of lentil, boasting the highest amount of protein in addition to high levels of calcium, potassium and iron.
Growing up, I was obsessed with eating lentils! We cooked lentils every day and I figured out it was healthy for our daily life. In the Healthy Local Food program when I heard that we were going to cook lentils I was so excited about spreading my culture. Lentils are a great part of a healthy plant-based diet. According to NPR.org, lentils were introduced in the U.S. a few years before World War II and “gained their enduring popularity thanks to their ready availability, low price, and high nutritional benefits” during and after that conflict. I’m glad this program gave me a chance to learn even more about something that has been a part of my life since I can remember.
The Healthy Local Food Program is run through Sustainable Solano, with funding from Solano Public Health and a California Department of Food and Agriculture grant. Innovative Health Solutions is also a partner that supports the program and receives funding through the CalFresh Healthy Living Program administered through the Nutrition Services Bureau of Solano Public Health.
Funding for culinary instruction was made possible by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Marketing Service through grant AM22SCBPCA1133. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the USDA.