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What’s the best way to encourage athletes to eat healthy? Offering them healthy food, of course! Special Olympics Mexico is doing just that, and taking the concept one step further by also having athletes prepare the healthy alternatives. Part of the Program’s Healthy Athletes Health Promotion discipline, the project is helping to feed not just athletes but also the need for job training for people with intellectual disabilities.

Partnering with the International School of Chefs in Mérida Yucatá, Health Promotion Special Chefs serve foods that provide many vitamins, contain few calories and are easy to eat for athletes. Some of the foods served include: skewers of fruit with honey, sticks of vegetables with dressing, and frozen yogurt with fruit and honey. The Special Chefs not only serve healthy food, but explain the importance of nutrition to the athletes that visit the Health Promotion venue as well as develop vital career training skills supplemental to a bright future.

Inspired by the life and memory of her six year old daughter Miranda, Luisa Fernanda, a student at the International School of Chefs wanted to do something for children with intellectual disabilities like Miranda, who passed away at the age of 6 from Leukemia. Being in the kitchen with her mother and playing in her own little kitchen preparing food was where Miranda excelled, giving hope to her family that she would one day live independently despite having Down syndrome.

“A very rewarding experience has been to see how our students, with great dedication, care, delivery and love, prepared food for the athletes,” said Fernanda. “We are very proud of our students and what we are achieving with them in such a short time.”

These students are not only having a great time preparing food, but they are also learning the necessary skills to build a career path for themselves. The Special Chef’s program helps people with intellectual disabilities construct and refine their food preparation skills so that they might have the opportunity to have a long and beneficial occupation preparing creative cuisines for people of various backgrounds.

After attending classes at the International Chef’s School, she realized that the classes could be easily adapted so that people with intellectual disabilities could also learn how to cook and prepare meals. She gathered a team of volunteer professionals in special education and they worked together to design a curriculum consisting of practical classes where these special chefs could learn all about important nutritional information as well as guidelines for protecting themselves in the kitchen while they prepare food.

The future of the Special Chefs program looks bright as they continue to make an impact in the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by dedicating their time, hearts and culinary talents to the Healthy Athletes movement.

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