Article on Harlem Seeds in the NY Daily News

Article on Harlem Seeds in the NY Daily News

Harlem Seeds Offers Kids Healthy


BY Abby Lieberman


Sunday, September 4th 2011, 9:04 PM

Rosalind Francis, of the Harlem Seeds program, helps students cook stir-fry noodles using ingredients they grew at Harlem's Clayton Williams Garden. 

Carolina Hidalgo for News

Rosalind Francis, of the Harlem Seeds program, helps students cook stir-fry noodles using ingredients they grew at Harlem’s Clayton Williams Garden.

Sisters Stephanie Mack and Michele Hatchette grew up in a Harlem household where, under strict enforcement from their mother, healthy foods were always on the menu.

It was Mom’s passion for nutrition, both women admit, that led them to form Harlem Seeds in May 2010. The nonprofit program seeks to immerse Harlem’s youth in the joy of fresh-from-the-ground foods and healthy cooking.

“We know that childhood obesity is running rampant and so with our mother always trying to get us eating healthier and making better choices, the idea just clicked,” says Mack, who serves as the organization’s executive director and oversees its day-to-day operations.

On Aug. 18, Harlem Seeds wrapped up its summer gardening program with the Harlem Center Police Athletic League (PAL) Day Camp.

“We were given a three-year grant for physical education and part of that was nutrition,” says Angela Gonzalez, program manager of PAL.

“Harlem Seeds presented what they do and we fell in love with it and thought it would be awesome for the kids.”

Twice a week, PAL campers have journeyed to Harlem’s Clayton Williams Garden, where they planted, tilled, weeded and watered their own plot in the garden.

Oluwadara Oyaniran, 9, and Kimaya Magwood, 10, eat a lunch that was part of the Harlem Seeds program’s last day of summer gardening classes. (Carolina Hidalgo for News)

“Inner-city kids don’t always get to experience that feel of nature and growing your own fruits and vegetables,” says Gonzalez.

“This is where they get their knowledge of fruits and vegetables,” adds Loretta Welcome, former president of Clayton Williams Garden, whose name could not be more fitting to her warm personality.

She says, “We welcome this program with open arms. The kids are learning and it’s so good.”

Harlem Seeds is centered on a “food to table” initiative, the reason that the PAL summer program started in the garden, but ended in the kitchen. “Once we connect the gardening piece, we move to the cooking piece,” says Mack. “It is a beautiful thing to see the program come full circle.”

With the help of Mack and her mother, Rosalind Francis, or “the culinary expert” as Mack refers to her, PAL’s fourth-grade campers prepared three delicious dishes — zesty stir-fry, cheesy pizza and colorful salad — while applying their knowledge of healthy cooking.

They enjoyed the spread of fresh food over a presentation from the Plant Hero, the “eco-tainer” whose mission is to share his passion for everything “green” with the community.

With kid-targeted programs like Harlem Seeds, children are able to experience the joy of planting, harvesting and cooking, and share their healthy know-how with their families and the community.

“Everybody has really embraced the mission of Harlem Seeds,” Mack says. “This is our way of giving back to Harlem.”

Recipe: Sesame Stir-fry Vegetables with Hoisin Sauce


Chinese-style vegetable stir-fry, made with a hoisin-based sauce, is a quick and simple vegetarian and vegan stir-fry with a distinct Asian flavor. Though the recipe calls for vegetables, you could add chicken, beef or tofu with good results and vary the vegetables used as well. This stir-fry has plenty of sauce, so serve over rice or noodles.


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

3 tablespoon hoisin sauce or vegetarian oyster sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons sugar or liquid sweetener (optional)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3-4 green onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger,
minced (optional)
2 cups broccoli, chopped, or 2 cups shredded red or green cabbage
1 red or yellow bell pepper
2 tablespoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)

Note: Cook rice or noodles according to directions on package.


1. In a small saucepan, whisk together hoisin sauce, sesame oil and soy sauce, rice vinegar, water, sugar and cornstarch over medium heat. Allow to simmer until mixture thickens, 5-7 minutes, remove from heat, set aside.

2. Make sure all your ingredients are close at hand. Add the onion to a big wok or skillet (with a little vegetable oil or cooking spray) and stir-fry until browned but still crisp, about 1 minute.

3. Add the minced garlic and ginger next so they’ll have a chance to flavor the entire dish (If you add them to the pan any sooner, they’ll burn.) Pour the sauce/glaze into a bowl.

4. Turn up the heat under the skillet and immediately add the vegetable you think will take longer to cook. If it’s not obvious, just pick a vegetable and start — you’re not going to ruin the stir-fry.

5. Staggering vegetables is more about keeping the skillet hot. After stir-frying the first vegetable for a few minutes, add the second and continue to stir-fry until all vegetables are tender-crisp, 1 to 2 minutes longer.

6. At this time, turn off skillet. Add stir-fry sauce to vegetables, mix well. If needed, adjust seasonings according to taste. Sprinkle sesame seeds and red pepper flakes over stir-fry.

7. Serve your vegetable stir-fry over cooked rice or noodles, if desired.


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