On Friday, March 2 Chef Vince Blancato held a chocolate class with the 3rd Graders and the Special Ed students who maintain the vegetable garden at Northwest Elementary School in Hudson. Sarah Velazques donated a variety of Swiss Chalet Chocolates for all the students to taste. The students viewed a film on making chocolate and also sampled cocoa powder and touched cocoa butter.

Pictured below- Special Ed students at Northwest Elementary School holding up Swiss Chalet Chocolates, cocoa beans, cocoa nibs, and cocoa butter.

In September the students planted seeds at the four school Gardens that we sponsor.  The week of December 17th we harvested what they grew and all the student gardeners at the four schools received a mango smoothie.  Pictures are at Northwest Elementary School in Hudson showing mango smoothie mustaches and the third graders with their Harvest. The other picture is at Fox Hollow Elementary School in Port Richey it was a rainy day so we harvested the vegetables and brought them into the school classroom for the kids to divide up amongst themselves. Also pictured are the students with their Harvest at the Deer Park Elementary school in New Port Richey.
I was assisted by two Master Gardeners from the Pasco County extension service.
-Vince Blancato

Check out our press release for the work that Chef and Child do.

Friday, May 4 ACF Tampa Bay Chefs Ray Benton CEC HACC and Vince Blancato prepared smoothie for 780 students and volunteers at Northwest Elementary School, Hudson FL.
This is the 4th year ACF sponsored this event.
The smoothies consisted of Banana’s, Blue Berries, Strawberries, Apple Juice and yogurt.
These smoothies help keep the children hydrated.
The smoothies contain lots of Potassium & Fiber.  These minerals are essential for children when they are outside playing in warm weather.
Blues Berry Farm, Plant City donated the Blue Berries and Straw Berries
Fresh Point, Tampa donated the Banana’s

Smoothie Video

Check out the Smoothie Video by the ACF Tampa Bay Chapter!

Northwest Elementary Chef and Child

On Oct. 20, Child Nutrition Day, the students at Northwest Elementary School, Hudson FL, harvested sweet potato’s and radishes from the school’s vegetable garden that the ACF Tampa Bay Chapter sponsors.  Radishes were washed and served to all students that day.  The sweet potato’s were taken into the school kitchen to dry.  On Friday Dec. 1 these sweet potato’s were cleaned, cut and baked.  All students in the Northwest Elementary School Vegetable Garden program were served Baked Sweet Potato’s by Tampa Bay ACF members Ray Benton, HCAA CEC and Vince Blancato.

Northwest Elementary Chef and Child

The CCF program where Chef Vince Blancato volunteers at Northwest Elementary school is in it’s 7 year.  Each year, once a week Chef Vince has 3 3rd Grade Classes out in the vegetable garden and then the following week Chef Vince is in their classroom encouraging his students to make healthy food choices.  His lesson plans are from USDA or the Florida Dept. of Agriculture.  During the Christmas vacation Chef Vince challenges his students to read a book about food., cooking, gardening or farming and then write a book report.   The teachers assign extra credit for the books that they are reading and if it is done the student are awarded a trip into their school’s kitchen to make a special dessert for their classmates.  Below are pictures of some of the winners.

Vegetable Garden at Northwest Elementary

Chef Ray Benton CEC ACC in front of the Vegetable Garden at Northwest Elementary School on May 5, 2017

Smoothies at Gulfside Elementary School

Attached are photos of Tampa Bay Chapter members Chefs Sharon Gandy and Vince Blancato at Gulfside Elementary School, Holiday FL, 2nd Grade Vegetable Garden Harvest on May 24, 2017.  Chef Sharon assisted the children harvesting their plants while Chef Vince made Spinach and Kale smoothies for everyone.

Smoothies at Northwest Elementary School

Chef Ray Benton CEC HAAC and Vince Blancato made smoothies for 720 students at Northwest Elementary School, Hudson, FL last Friday May 5 during their annual Field Day.  Blue’s Berry Farms donated all the strawberries and blueberries and Fresh Point donated the banana’s and yogurt.

Harvest Day at Fox Hollow Elementary

Chef Ray Benton CEC, HAAC at his school’s harvest in December. This is a picture of the third grade garden at Fox Hollow Elementary School, Port Richey, and Chef Ray cleaning,cutting and sampling the crop to his students. It was a Bountiful Harvest and the students were able to take home vegetables for their family.

Harvest Day at Fox Hollow Elementary

On May 31st 2016, Harvest Day, at Fox Hollow Elementary School in Port Richey Chef Vince Blancato and Chef Ray Benton did a tasting of all the vegetables that were grown in the school garden.  They also made smoothies for all the children. These 2nd graders took home a lot of healthy vegetables for the family!

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Fox Hollow Harvest May 2016 A


Chefs Ray Benton, CEC HAAC and Vince Blancato has helped 5 Pasco County schools achieve the Bronze level award in The Healthier US School Challenge

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Click Here To Read More!


3rd Graders at Gulfside Elementary School

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November 12, 2015

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On Nov. 12 Chef Ray Benton CEC, HAAC and Vince Blancato presented what pollutants do to our aquifer to the 3rd grade students at Northwest Elementary School, Hudson FL.  Before the children “built” their edible aquifer (picture 1) it was explained to them that water moves through our environment in a process known as the Hydrologic Cycle.  This cycle begins when the sun’s energy warm water bodies on the earth’s surface.  This leads to evaporation by which water changes from liquid to vapor.  The heat of the sun also causes plants to release water in a process called transpiration.  Then comes condensation – this vapor rise and forms clouds.  When the clouds get to heavy with these tiny water droplets then comes precipitation.  When the water falls to earth some of it flows as runoff into the Gulf, rivers and lakes while some of it is absorbed in the ground thru percolation and stored in the aquifer.  The aquifer is a spongelike underground layer of limestone and/or rocks that can hold and release water.  In the second picture we demonstrated to the children what happens to the pollutants that we put on the ground – it goes into our aquifer.


October 13, 2015

2015 Sweet Potato Harvest

On Tuesday, October 13, 3rd Graders at Gulfside Elementary School, Holiday FL, harvested the sweet potato the last semester’s 3rd Graders planted in May before their summer vacation.

This vegetable is sponsored by the ACF Tampa Bay Chapter and has been a 3rd Grade project for the last 4 years.  One week the 3rd Graders are out in their garden making observations and maintaining the garden and the following week they are in class with ACF Tampa Bay member Vince Blancato leading them in nutrition lessons and encouraging them to make healthy food choices.


October 16, 2015

Oct. 16 CCF NWES

On Friday Oct. 16, 2015 the ACF Tampa Bay Chapter celebrated Childhood Nutrition Day with the 4 3rd Grade Classes at Northwest Elementary School, Hudson FL.

Chapter member Chef Vince Blancato sampled the children different colored fruit and vegetables that are growing in the school’s vegetable garden appropriately named  The Wellness Garden.  ACF Tampa Bay members started this garden 5 years ago under Mrs. Obama’s Chef’s Move to Schools Initiative.  Every school year it becomes a 3rd Grade Project.  One week the children are out in their garden planting seeds, making written obOct. 16 2015 NWESservations on how their garden is progressing, sampling the fruits and vegetables right off their plants and finally in Dec. and May they harvest their crop.  The following week ACF Tampa Bay members are in the 3rd Grade Classrooms giving them Nutrition Lessons approved by USDA and/or the Florida Dept. of Agriculture.  This program continues weekly for the entire school year.

To celebrate 2015 Childhood Nutrition Day, Chapter ACF Tampa Bay Member Chef Vince Blancato sampled the 3rd Grade students fruits and vegetables from the 5 Food Color Groups.  The nutrition values of each item was explained to the students and then each student was required to write a sentence containing adjectives on their taste experience for each item.


ACF Tampa Bay Chefs are active in the Chefs Move to Schools Program

The Chefs Move to Schools program, founded in May 2010, is an integral part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative. The goal of this program is help battle the childhood obesity epidemic that is within this generation. The program pairs ACF Chefs with schools in their communities with the mission of collaboratively educating kids about food and proper nutrition. ACF Tampa Bay Chefs use their culinary creativity and knowledge to engage students through cooking demonstrations, school gardens, in-class instructions and other activities that focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, proteins and the importance of a balanced diet. Our Chefs partner with employees who work in K-12 school meal operations, administrators and teachers to help improve the way children interact with food, from the cafeteria to the classroom.

Every year the VFW Post #10167 opens up their Post Home for this annual Jr. ROTC Fund raiser.  The Cadets decorate the Banquet Hall (Decorating Platoon), cook the food under my supervision (Kitchen Platoon) and serve their guests (Service Platoon).  This year they prepared a 4 course Italian Dinner – Antipasto, Salad, Manicotti and Sausage and House-Made Cannoli. Fresh baked Cheesy Bread Sticks were served to all.


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Chef Vince Blancato and “Sous Chef Remy” teaching a third grade class at Gulfside Elementary School, Holiday FL about the good and Bad things in the foods they eat on Thursday, Feb. 5.

3rd Grade Gulfside Ele

The 3rd Graders harvested some of their vegetables at Gulfside Elementary School in Holiday FL. Santa’s helper, Chef Vince cleaned and cut up their bounty for a healthy afternoon snack.


It is a picture of Gulfside Elementary School, Holiday FL, receiving their Bronze Award from USDA for being a Healthier  School. Each week I give a nutrition lesson to the 3rd Graders and assist them in maintaining their vegetable garden.  This program is Mrs. Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools.

In the picture is Kurt Browning, Pasco Co. Superintendent of Schools, Chris Clayton, Principal of Gulfside Elementary School, Vince Blancato and Allison Cumbley, Pasco Co. School Board Member.


Awards - Ray

This picture is the second part of the picture that Chef Vince Blancato.

It was from the “annual awards night” for Pasco County schools and many people were recognized for various things like essay contest winners, volunteer gardeners and people that make a difference in our community.

The people in this picture are from left to right: Superintendent of Pasco County schools Kurt Browning, Fox Hollow assistant principal Karyn Kinzie, Fox Hollow Elem. school principal Dawn Scilex, master gardeners Bob and Carla O’Brien, Chef Ray Benton and Alison Crumbley, school board member.

Vince and I have 4 schools in Pasco County that we watch over the gardens and help the children taste what they grow. WE are partnered with the University of Florida Extension Program and the staff of Betsy Crisp who go into the schools and teach K-4th grade students about eating better, the my plate  lesson, hand washing and this becomes a win-win situation because the children take home what they have learned to their parents and siblings. The garden has been a blessing for the children who now have learned a life-long lesson on how to grow their own food. No longer is the answer that we get our food from Publix, now they are farmers also. We have accomplished one of our goals at one of the gardens and that is to feed the whole school with what they harvested. We harvested enough sweet potatoes to feed 500 children sweet potatoes fries one day at Gulfside elementary in Holiday, Florida.

Chef Ray Benton, CCE, HAAC


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These pictures shows the dinner that the children in the All Children’s Hospital Fit4Allkids Program made for their parents and teachers and Dieticians under the supervision of Chef Ray Benton CEC, HACC, Chef Chuck Edmond and myself. The children made White Chicken Chili, Awesome Beef Chili, Corn, Mango and Jicama Salsa, and Salsa Verde and a delicious Sautéed Apple Cobbler for dessert.  This event took place at the Holiday Recreation Center the evening of Oct. 20, 8 children were in the kitchen preparing this dinner. The Fit4Allkids Program is a Family Wellness Program for families with obese children.




Sweet Potato Harvest

On Sept. 18,  Chef Ray Benton CEC, HACC and Vince Blancato assisted the 2nd and 3rd Grade students at Gulfside Elementary School, Holiday FL, in harvesting the sweet potatoes from their respective Gardens.  These gardens are sponsored by the ACF Tampa Bay Chefs Association under the Chef & Child Foundation and Mrs. Obama’s Let’s Move Initiative. Video

The sweet potatoes’ were then brought into the school’s kitchen and Chef Ray and Vince prepared Sweet Potato Fries which were served to all students for lunch.

Chef Vince Blancato



On July 28 Boars Head hosted our Chapters tri-annual All Children’s Hospital, Pasco Co. Clinic, Fit4Allkids Program Dinner.  The Fit4Allkids program is a Family Wellness Program for families of overweight children.  On the seventh week of this 8 week program the children cook a dinner for their families, Instructors/Dieticians and Physicians.  Chefs Ray Benton, Vince Blancato and Laura Johnson assisted the children in preparing Chicken Taco’s and Chicken Wraps.  For dessert the children cleaned and prepared was a cornucopia of fresh fruits.


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Pictures from the last harvest of the year from our 2 schools in Pasco County. Chef Vince and myself peeled and chopped so the children could taste the vegetables that they  picked, and the local master gardeners  did the harvest with the children and their parents. All were amazed at the volume and size of their crop this year. We picked carrots, radishes, cucumbers and zucchini, and I made fresh cole slaw in front of the children with a 10-lb cabbage from the garden. The hot dogs were also well received but were not grown in the garden. The children of these schools have had fun in their gardens and they have learned a life-long lesson on how to grow their own food. Thank you to all who participated in this successful event, including the children, the teachers, the master gardeners and the principals of the schools who are all for this program.


Chef Ray Benton, CCE, HAAC

Chefs Move & Children Learn

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For several years Chef Vince Blancato and Chef Ray Benton have been visiting Gulfside Elementary School and Northwest Elementary School in Pasco County teaching students there about healthy eating. Once a week the chefs take their knowledge and love of food and transfer it to the young eager minds. One week the chefs have the children out in the garden planting, watering, fertilizing and harvesting their crops. At harvest time each student is able to take fresh vegetables home; carrots, bibb lettuce, radishes, potatoes, cauliflower and cabbage. The weeks they are not in the garden, they are in the classroom learning what foods are good for their bodies and what is not. Chef Vince and Chef Ray encourage the students to make good choices for a healthier lifestyle. This is a great video (Click Here) of the chefs and children learning together! If you are interested in learning how you can get involved in this life changing program contact Chef Vince or Chef Ray

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November Chef Night

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Another great night with the kids in the kitchen! This program is so important and teaches the children skills and educates them and their families on healthy eating. They were glowing as they worked with you all in the kitchen to prepare a healthy dinner for their family. I think this is something every parent needs to see first-hand.

Thank you Chefs Paul Mullino, Chuck Edmonds and Ray Benton for coming out and helping make the evening such a big success for the children.

Chef Vince Blancato

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July Chef Night

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The All Children’s Hospital Fit4Allkids Program is a family wellness program targeting weight management as well as nutrition and culinary education. Knowing how to keep children and families healthy and active is so important, especially with childhood obesity rates at an all-time high. That’s why All Children’s Hospital has teamed up with the ACF Tampa Bay Chapter and has made a commitment to helping families raise a healthier generation.

Vince Blancato

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