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A chef by training, Alli Sosna has worked in some of DC’s finest kitchens. Her commitment to the DC community led her to serve as Executive Chef at DC Central Kitchen, where she recognized her passion for providing the nation’s youth with access to, and knowledge of, healthy foods. From there she founded MicroGreens, a free education program dedicated to increasing awareness of healthy food choices for families around the country.

MicroGreens is an innovative program that works with schools and non-profit organizations to educate children and low-income families about how to make healthy choices based on a government-supplemented food budget. Through 1 class a week over an 8-week period, MicroGreens fellows showcase how anyone can shop for, prepare, and enjoy a healthy meal based on a total budget of $3.50 per meal for a family of 4.

How and why did you start MicroGreens?

While I was serving as Executive Chef at DC Central Kitchen, I worked on the school catering side of operations where I kept seeing kids who just didn’t know how to cook or eat in a healthy way. Most of these students were coming from low-income households and most qualified for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). I saw that there was a need for basic education on healthy eating. I wanted to work in the local community and thought, “What can I do next?” I wanted to help these kids eat better and working with them to take what they have to make the best of it.

Why is the MicroGreens model unique?

With MicroGreens, kids serve as the vehicle for change; we focus on kids in order to help change the habits of an entire family. We are particularly focused on middle schoolers in grades 6 and 7. Also, my private work helps fund MicroGreens by giving a percentage of our profits to help fund the education programs. I think my clients appreciate knowing that when they work with me, they are also giving back to the community. Kind of like Toms. It’s a business model of paying it forward.

What lessons have you learned since starting MicroGreens?

It might seem obvious, but bringing on a diverse team is necessary. In order to achieve success, I think that you need to accept help and be trusting of those you work with–I put a lot of faith in our board members, clients and volunteers. There will always be uncertainty. By surrounding yourself with good people and putting your faith in them, you empower them and create a successful system.

What’s on tap for MicroGreens in the future?

MicroGreens is growing and is going to be a huge year! In September, we’re going to be expanding to Baltimore, and we’ll also be working with two DC schools. We just hired a director for communications and operations to help with the expansion, and we’ve partnered with both My Power Supply and Cava Mezze to help with funding. DC Central Kitchen continues to serve as our fiscal sponsor too. With their support, I think 2013 and 2014 are going to be much more streamlined, and we are really growing at the right pace to successfully manage our programs.

How can people get involved?

Certainly by donating, but we are also looking for volunteers. We are assembling teams for our September fellowship to help in both DC and Baltimore schools–applications and more information can be found on our website.

Also, we often host fundraising events. On June 15, the Occidental will be hosting a BBQ, Beer, and Bourbon event at which a portion of the proceeds will benefit MicroGreens. It’s sure to be a great event featuring all-you-can-eat deliciousness.

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