Wellness in the Schools (WITS)
is a grassroots, non-profit, community based organization founded in
2005 in order to improve the environment, nutrition, and fitness in NYC
public schools. In partnership with the New York City Department of
Education's Office of SchoolFood, Wellness in the Schools operates a
program called Cook for Kids (founded by chef Bill Telepan, of Telepan restaurant, and Nancy Easton, a former principal) in NYC public school kitchens.
Cook for Kids works to
secure healthy food from SchoolFood and places a culinary school
graduate in the kitchen five hours a day, five days a week to develop
and cook nutritious meals, train cafeteria workers, and pass on culinary
and nutrition concepts to students, parents, and teachers.
The WITS Cooks For Kids Program includes the following at PS 87:
- Dedicated chef full-time 5 days per week to work with the SchoolFoods staff
- Continued sponsorship from our restaurant partnership with Bill Telepan
- Four WITS Cooking labs per year
- Seasonal Wellness Cafe
- 20 minute educational classroom modules about healthy eating
Dedicated Chef / Partnership with Bill Telepan
Chef Cynthia Tomasini Chef Bill Telepan
Our WITS Chef in
Residence, Cynthia Tomasini, works alongside our PS 87 cafeteria staff
to train, inspire, and support their preparation of salad bars and fresh
homemade meals. Chef Cynthia is a graduate of the French Culinary
Institute in NYC. She has worked at Sur La Table, Eden Village Farm and
L'Ecole. Chef Cynthia currently works as private chef, Oliver Cheng
Catering and the Culinary Loft. Most recently Chef Cynthia was a WITS
chef at PS 11. Patrick Clark is PS 87’s new Head Cook. Our lunch program is supervised by Bill Telepan, chef/restauranteur and former PS 87 parent.
Coach for Kids
brings trained coaches onto public school recess yards to encourage
even the least active children to engage in fun and healthy physical
activities. Coach for kids actively combats schoolyard bullying by
building positive social skills through play and fosters a sense of
excitement around fitness.
The WITS Coach For Kids Program includes the following at PS 87:
Two trained coaches, Dante Suarez and Ena Shed, 5 days per week to work with K-5 recess.
2-4 Play Days a year with Fitness Partner, Fastbreak.
Family Fun Fitness Night Events twice a year.
Be in the Know classroom curricula and interactive
materials for WITS Coaches to teach students about the importance of
respecting one another and helping students who feel bullied to find a
Overall Goals for the WITS Cook for Kids Program:
For children to return to class after lunch ready to focus and learn.
To actively engage children in healthy, fun physical activity.
To help prevent playground bullying and develop pro-social behaviors.
Long term, to teach children healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
WITS Cooking Labs
Our WITS Chef in Residence, Cynthia Tomasini conducts a series of cooking labs with the kids. The WITS Wellness Lab (Click here for a Brochure)
is the component of the Cook for Kids program that takes place in the
classroom. Interactive cooking and nutrition demonstrations are
incorporated into the school day. In the Wellness Lab, children are
introduced to seasonal produce and they prepare and taste the produce in
a variety of ways: raw, roasted and in a recipe. Recipes are given to
children to take home and at least one of the recipes is prepared in the
cafeteria during the tasting week.
These cooking labs take place periodically throughout the year. The
entire lab is taught within 30-45 minutes and at the end of each class
all the kids get a tasting. The WITS Labs are made possible thanks to
the generosity of Whole Foods Market and OXO.
The WITS Cooking Labs recipes:
WITS BITS (Click here for a Brochure)
are simple and short (20 minute) classroom experiences that focus on
teaching children nutrition-based lessons. WITS Cooks bring
demonstrations into the classroom to teach students hands-on lessons
about healthy food and eating that allow them to learn by seeing,
listening, and doing These sessions are held once a month at PS 87.
Seasonal Wellness Café Days
Wellness Café Days
are held a few times a year. During WITS Café Days one of our
restaurant chef partners visits the school to work with WITS Cook,
culinary interns and volunteers, and SchoolFood staff on an interactive
meal with the students. Each WITS Chef Partner brings something
different to Café Day; some chefs introduce the students to new recipes,
some conduct cooking demonstrations, and some work to connect with
students on a personal level by eating lunch in the cafeteria and
talking to kids about nutrition, wellness, and their work as a chef.
On these special days at PS 87, students and faculty will share a tasty
and healthy communal meal prepared from scratch by Cynthia and our
The Wellness Café Days (examples):
You will receive information in your child's backpack announcing Wellness Café Days, so watch out for it!
Overall Goals for the WITS Cook for Kids Program:
- To provide a salad bar daily that offers two lettuces, three additional vegetables, and one fresh composed salad.
- To provide salad dressings made from scratch.
- To provide at least one fresh fruit daily (not canned or in syrup).
- To ensure that vegetables served are fresh (frozen only when necessary and never canned).
- To ensure that at least 60% of
the meals offered each week are made from unprocessed ingredients (at
least 3 times/week). We eliminate all foods that list more than 5
- To offer only whole grain pasta, bread and rice.
- To ensure access to water daily at lunch.
- To eliminate sweetened milk.
- To offer grass-fed beef at least twice each semester.
- To support sustainable disposable
recycling efforts by eliminating the use of styrofoam trays at least
two days/week (Trayless Tuesday and Pizza Friday).
- To eliminate the service of meat products at least one day per week.
For more details about the program, please visit: www.wellnessintheschools.org