On Saturday, Anna Chapman and her husband, Ron Perelman, hosted their annual Green Beetz fund-raiser at the Creeks in East Hampton.
Green Beetz was co-founded in 2013 by Dr. Chapman's brother, Andrew Chapman, and the chef Marcus Samuelsson of Red Rooster restaurant in Harlem.
The purpose of Green Beetz is to educate middle school children about nutrition, the environment, food, and society. In an interview before the event, Dr. Chapman explained that this is the age that children start to think for themselves and are observing the world around them. The curriculum is free, is used in all five boroughs, and during Covid, reached many more schools around the country and the world. Kids learn about basic nutritional science, digestion, and diet-related issues. They also learn about how our modern food system has become detached, and has a negative effect on our environment. Lastly, they are educated about food and society, different cultures' cooking processes, and how to become a more educated consumer.
Dr. Chapman further explained that this annual Green Beetz event is meant to be "homespun without being frumpy." At past events it had activities to engage the parents as well as the kids with woodshops to build birdhouses, plants to take home, competitive games, and art pieces made entirely of vegetables that the kids could pluck off and eat.
At this year's event, there was a little pen with goats that you could draw, some ancient tortoises and turtles, tennis and paddle games, and a Blue Parrot truck dispensing the best margaritas and churros.
The real action was in the big barn/studio building where various booths and tables were set up with food stuffs, crafts, auction items, and swag bags you could fill up yourself with boxes of healthy macaroni, organic chocolates, apple sauce packets, seaweed snacks, and more.
One of the most interesting displays was Rich Lamarita's ayurvedic table, laden with foods and spices representing the different flavors: sweet, sour, salty, pungent, bitter, and astringent. The children loved this interactive educational display, mostly enjoying the wedges of watermelon, tasting the salt, and squealing over the lemons and kale. At another table, Stephen Robinson of Newlight Breadworks was teamed with Jack Grunberg of Palloncino Organic Olive Oil, making bruschetta for guests. Newlight's milk bread was also being used by the table next to them in Japanese fruit sandwiches -- ichigo sandoichi -- with Oishii strawberries and whipped cream. The kids clamored for this activity and loved making their own. (Oishii is a company based in New Jersey that is now growing the sweetest Japanese strawberries using vertical growing techniques.)
Outside in the courtyard, Winston Irie was playing and a spread of delicious healthy food was laid out buffet-style: summer greens with grilled peaches, grilled corn with scallions and avocado, farro with grilled zucchini and preserved lemon, blackened salmon filets, crispy fish sliders, basil cheese arancinis, tomato, cucumber, and feta salad, and at the end of the line, a simple pasta with tomato sauce and truffle fries, all prepared for hundreds of people by the in-house chef.
I ran into Stefanie Sacks, a local culinary nutritionist and author of "What the Fork Are You Eating?" She pointed out that "often when you come to family events, the food is not the focus. As a parent you just expect to see pizza. It's a breath of fresh air to see events focused on families and children and the food."
Weather-wise it was a bluebird day, and heartwarming to see children playing and participating, and learning about nutritious foods in the most fun way.
As Dr. Chapman said: "Food is a lens to teach about so many aspects of the world." It was an honor to be invited and to witness this.