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Working Together to Keep Our Children Happy and Healthy

Steve Jayson, an Executive Chef for more than 21 years, shares his story of using his experience as a chef to help bring healthy, fresh food choices into Central Florida schools.

It is an honor to have the opportunity to make our schools a healthier place for our children and to be recognized as a Champion of Change.

This is a cause that has been important to me for a long time.  As a chef, I want people to like the food I prepare for them – but I also want it to be good for them.  As Executive Chef for Universal Orlando Resort, I have the privilege of helping to guide the work of 28 chefs and 900 cooks who prepare food for more than 60 locations across both our theme parks and our entertainment complex.  People often think of “theme park food” in a very specific way.  But we’ve worked hard to make sure the food we offer is well balanced so that our guests can make healthy as well as delicious choices.  Sure you can get a cheese burger.  But you can also get a wide variety of healthy, fresh choices.  Our guests tell us they love the fact that we help them make the right kind of choices.

And so I was thrilled to be able to take the same kind of approach to schools in Central Florida.  I got to work with a lot of other local chefs and food service professionals.  We worked together to shape some basic ideas and then went into individual schools to work with teams there.  I have tried to help create a focus on food that tastes good and that is good for you.  School children are a tough audience and we have a lot of work still ahead of us.  You can’t change behaviors overnight – but we’re working on it.

I remember being in awe when more than 2,000 high school students came in to the cafeteria at Olympia High School and had a mere 40 minutes to make their selection and enjoy their lunch.  This in itself is a challenge for school lunch programs in addition to the need to prepare and provide healthy, appetizing entrees for the students.

And so being invited to The White House has been an incredible experience.  I’m excited that The White House would help us focus on this topic and I know with continued support the goals of this project can be reached.  Our children are our legacy and the future of this great country we live in.  We need to work together to help keep them happy and healthy. 

Steve Jayson is Executive Chef for Universal Orlando Resort.