Its slogan as “the fun cooking magazine for families” seems apt. ChopChop’s pages contain food-related word games and math puzzlers, tips on manners, suggestions for physical activity and a monthly profile of a Healthy Hero. They feature kids ages 5 to 12 who demonstrate the recipes, which come with information about how the nutrition satisfies MyPlate, the government’s refurbished dietary guide.
Sampson, 56, is head of a “pretty lean team” that she directs from her home in Watertown, Mass. In June, the team and five students from Harriet Tubman Elementary in the District met at the White House to spend kitchen time with executive chef Cristeta Comerford, assistant chef Adam Collick, executive pastry chef Bill Yosses and assistant pastry chef Susie Morrison; the visit fills the pages of the current issue.
Not surprisingly, a proposal for a ChopChop cookbook is in the works.
Sampson recently spoke with deputy Food editor Bonnie S. Benwick. Edited excerpts follow:
Tell me about the motivation for ChopChop.
My daughter was born with a chronic illness [pancreatitis], so I spent a lot of time in pediatricians’ offices and hospitals and on various advisory boards over the years. And researching. I kept feeling like I wanted to do something that mattered more than writing cookbooks.
I approached Lisa Simpson, who was then at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, and Barry Zuckerman, chief of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. We talked about basically prescribing cooking during doctor visits. They helped me flesh out the idea.
Now we’re in over 10,000 pediatricians’ offices, in schools and even on Indian reservations. It’s spreading, and that’s really exciting.
What makes ChopChop different from other kid-focused cookbooks and such?
We’re really trying to teach but not have a kid feel like it’s homework. We don’t do funny faces or recipe titles. We don’t “hide” foods. All that just dumbs food down, and then you’ve defeated the purpose. And, you know, we have lots of 20-year-olds who read ChopChop. Our recipes are for any beginning cook.
Do you get feedback from parents or children?
Both, plus doctors, government agencies, schools. I think the magazine gets better with each issue because we listen to the feedback. For example, a group of teachers in Philadelphia went through our recipe ingredients and told us their kids didn’t have access to particular foods. We’ve added frozen vegetables as a result.