By: Ryan Hodros, Culinary Arts and Pastry Arts Graduate
Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts Participates In VA2K Walk To Help Embrace A Healthy Lifestyle While Supporting Veterans In Need
May 20th was National Employee Health and Fitness Day, and while many people don’t even realize this is a holiday, the Veterans Affairs Office takes advantage of this day to schedule their annual VA2K walk/roll in support of Veterans Health. In 2014, over 25,000 people participated at 172 VA locations (including the Denver VA Medical Center).
Not a race, VA2K is an opportunity for participants of all fitness levels to walk or roll just over a mile in the name of healthy living and supporting homeless veterans. The VA encouraged participants to donate personal hygiene items, clothes, and other items, but this was not required for participation. In 2014, over $300,000 worth of goods were donated to this end.
This year, Auguste Escoffier had the privilege of taking part in the event held at the Denver VA Medical Center, sending yours truly to demonstrate some healthy baked goods to Veterans and participants with restricted diets. Setting our tent next to the diabetes awareness station, I was encouraged to make items that were either sugar-free or low sugar in order to accommodate those with diabetes.
In addition to Escoffier, the Denver VA2K included a live cover band and numerous informative tents from organizations around the area, including Team Red White and Blue and the Community Research and Referral Center, and covering a variety of medical topics such as dermatology, diabetes, and healthful living. All of this was in support of the VA’s MOVE! program, which is a program supporting healthy weight loss for veterans and their families (which is something I could use myself.)
To that end, I brought the oatmeal granola bar recipe I developed for a previous article, which is low sugar, high fiber, and healthier than your average cookie. I also brought some cheddar palmiers, which are completely sugar free. (Palmiers are a puff pastry item where the puff is rolled into a heart shape and then baked. Normally, the dessert version of this is coated in sugar, but I toasted some cheddar over the top in order to keep them sugar free.)
To be completely honest, I set myself on cruise control when I went through the healthful baking block of the Pastry Program. I was 30 at the time, still had a robust metabolism, and my sweet tooth ruled with an iron fist. I took plenty of notes and learned as much as I could, but it never really dawned on me just how many people there are whose lives could be brightened by a creative application of those skills. Several VA2K participants lit up when I told them how much I had reduced the sugar content of my granola cookies, one man commenting that it was the first cookie he’d eaten in over a decade.
(On a personal note, I’d like to add into this entry that the folks at the Denver VAMC are wonderful. My wife and I go to them for our heathcare needs, and the staff is incredibly helpful, the therapists are caring, informative, and constantly available, and the doctors and nurses are top-notch. Any veterans reading this, if you’re concerned about getting substandard care at a VA hospital due to whatever bad experiences you may have had in uniform, know that the Denver VAMC will not disappoint. They’re amazing people, and they do amazing things.
The Veteran population at Auguste Escoffier is small, but growing. As a result, the administration is doing its best to reach out to the Colorado Veteran Community in order to become more aware of the needs of its students and the benefits available to veterans. While it’s a slow, ongoing process, we feel it’s our duty to serve those who have served as best as possible while they pursue their culinary dreams. It was an honor to take part in VA2K and we look forward to coming out again next year!