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YORK -- Above the left-field bleachers, in the kitchen of the Audi Yankees Club, 15 students from the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice greeted a special visitor to their weekly culinary workshop.
British chef and television personality Jamie Oliver paid a visit to Yankee Stadium on Friday to get a glimpse of the Yankees' Healthy Home Plate program, which provides a month-long after-school activity for local children to learn how to eat healthy and cook nutritious dishes from some of Legends Hospitality's finest cooks.
"What I'm trying to do, mate, is I believe that sports organizations can do a lot more," Oliver said. "I believe they can do a lot better. I believe they're not doing enough yet. So I reached out to the Yankees, because they've already got some programs going on, and I wanted to come and see it. I wanted to sort of say, 'Well done for doing what you're doing.'"
The program started when Brian Smith, the Yankees' senior vice president of corporate and community relations, reached out to the grocery-store corporation Stop & Shop and New York-based nutrition experts Nourishing USA about a special program for children that would take place inside Yankee Stadium under the guidance of experts from the club's food service.
Smith said the Yankees recognized a number of trends around New York, such as juvenile diabetes and childhood obesity, which the organization wanted to be progressive in fighting.
"We host kids from local community-based organizations, schools and so on," Smith said. "We bring them in and engage them with this program, where they have the opportunity to prepare and learn about healthy meals that are affordable that they can not only do here, but change their lifestyle and prepare for their family and friends at home."
When Oliver heard about the Yankees' Healthy Home Plate program, he contacted Smith and asked if he could shadow a class. Smith graciously accepted and contacted history teacher and community outreach coordinator Kimberly Felder at the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice about bringing her students -- recent graduates of the program -- back for one last class with Oliver.
"I was very excited," said student Jorieo Arias. "I've never met a celebrity or had the opportunity to work with one, so it was really fun."
When Oliver arrived at Yankee Stadium on Friday, the students presented him with a Yankees apron and chef's hat with his name stitched to the lapel.
"I'm going to be feeling this today," Oliver said.
The class, with the help of the internationally acclaimed chef, cooked an EggO-Mega starter sandwich, which consists of a baked egg, low-fat Canadian bacon, two whole-wheat English muffins and a thin layer of cheddar cheese. Oliver delivered tips on how to maintain a healthy diet while the students were cooking.
"Somehow, I believe it's my job, all chefs' jobs, all food lovers' jobs and all parents' jobs to make the kids, and frankly the parents, more street-wise about foods," Oliver said. "It's not about not having a burger, because a burger is really good. They might want to choose a different one or they might want to have a different choice and make their own."
Felder's students are the third group to graduate the program. In two weeks, a fourth group will enter the four-week course, which targets students between ages 12-16. Each session is 2 1/2 hours long and teaches the students a different recipe. After the lesson, Stop & Shop provides students with food they can take home to their families. The hope is the students will replicate the recipes with their families, leading to a lifestyle of healthy eating.
"It sticks to you," student Jennifer Leon said. "You just learn something new, and when you come out with a product, you just get so excited that you did it yourself. You just want to run home and be like, 'Mom let's try this, I can make it myself.'"
Ethan Asofsky is an associate reporter for MLB.com.