Improving the health of Sullivan County, a single bite at a time

Posted 3/22/23

LIBERTY, NY — When I grew up in Liberty, I learned very little about nutrition and what real food was.

Real Food, according to health-education nonprofit A Single Bite, is food that is not …

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Improving the health of Sullivan County, a single bite at a time


LIBERTY, NY — When I grew up in Liberty, I learned very little about nutrition and what real food was.

Real Food, according to health-education nonprofit A Single Bite, is food that is not processed or is processed as little as possible, coming from the earth or local farm.

But the most education I had was the food pyramid, and the cafeteria offered no vegetable choices.

As a result, I was in my 20s before I tried my first salad. And by the time I was in my 30s, I was nearly disabled. That was when I finally decided to change my dietary habits to bring health back to my body.

I often wonder how life would have been different if I was taught about nutrition at an early age. When I heard about A Single Bite—which is founded and operated by Kirsten and Sims Foster of Foster Supply Hospitality—I needed to learn more.

Sullivan County, which ranks 61 out of 62 in health out of all the counties in New York State, certainly needs help. The Fosters saw the need and founded A Single Bite, which educates students from all over the county about real, nutritious, locally grown food.

“A Single Bite’s Real Food Education program teaches students to care about the food they eat and where it comes from,” said Audrey Garro, the executive director of A Single Bite. “It is [composed] of four interactive sessions that engage, educate and empower young people to make healthy choices for a lifetime. There is only one rule. Students must try ‘a single bite’.”

The first session takes place right in the students’ classroom. There, Kyle Goldstein, who serves as the “real food educator” for A Single Bite, teaches seventh-grade students about the difference between real and processed foods. He explains where to find healthy food in the grocery store, how many ingredients the food has, where the food comes from, and how each can make your body feel.

Then the students try some real food, and write down the taste and texture; then they guess what they’re eating. This helps them integrate their real-food experience, Garro said.

The chef then comes out and explains what the students were eating, where it came from, and how it was made.

At a Single Bite session in February, students were fully engaged, excited to try new foods and surprised at how good they tasted. Not all of them liked what they were eating, but they were intrigued nonetheless.

Do you need help?

Are you a member of a family with children, and are you struggling to put food on the table?

A Single Bite’s free Family Meal program is available. If you need help or want to help, visit or email

The second session takes place at Sprouting Dreams Farm in Liberty, where the students get to experience first-hand how the food is grown, and try some real food right from its source, the ground.

This time, the Liberty students walked into three huge greenhouses, which right away sparked their interest. They tried some sunflower shoots and mustard greens. They seemed to be in awe of the experience and the farmer himself—Eugene Thalmann, the advisor for A Single Bite and co-owner of Sprouting Dreams Farm. Some students referred to him as their “favorite guy.”

“Opening up the worldview expansion of students is really what I’m passionate about,” Thalmann said. “If you don’t have good food, you can’t think clearly. You’re gonna have issues [that will] take mental resources away from your passions, your dreams and how you can uniquely contribute to society.”

The third session is hosted at Shandelee Hall in the Arnold House in Livingston Manor, owned and operated by Foster Supply Hospitality. It gives the students a chance to experience a lunch made with real, locally sourced food.

As I walked into the dining room in February, I was in awe, mesmerized by the ambience. There were glowing lights hanging from the ceiling over the tables where the kids would sit. There were candles in a row, aligned on the tabletops. Everything was placed perfectly.

The seventh graders entered the room with their eyes aglow. No matter what was placed on their plates, their attention was perked up and they were ready to experience all of it.

The courses came out, starting with a winter salad. Then some tri-colored heirloom carrots, fingerling potatoes and herb-roasted chicken. For dessert, there was a lemon honey tart.

After every course, Goldstein would ask the students what they tasted and about the texture of the foods.

“If we’re listening to Kyle right now, and how they’re talking about the food, that’s how we’re seeing they’re changing their attitudes on it. Putting that critical thought pattern behind it is gonna solidify this,” Thalmann said.

One student said that the only chicken she ate at home was chicken nuggets. Another student wouldn’t eat the chicken because she “liked chickens.” Another student was stunned by the carrot colors, and asked if they were made with dye.

Nope, the chef said. That is how the carrots came out of the ground.

Whatever their experience was, the kids were talking about it. And you could see their eyes glowing with curiosity, wonder and awe.

Finally, the kids were back to the classroom to refresh their memories and experiences, and of course, to try more “single bites.”

Some of the words the kids used to describe their experience were “tasteful,” “amazing,” “exquisite,” “fun” and “extraordinary.” Some even expressed their desire to work on a farm.

“Providing nutritional information and creating real food experiences is our way of supplementing the efforts of dedicated educators,” said Garro. “In the coming months, A Single Bite will collaborate with farmers and community partners to support local school districts as they increase the variety and volume of healthy menu options for local students. Sullivan County is truly coming together to improve the lives of our neighbors.”

Goldstein said that it’s the small changes that can make profound differences.

“You have the information now to make that decision and have your own autonomy in what you put into your body as far as food. And to me, that’s amazing,” he said. “When the kids feel like they have that power, it opens up a ton of doors for them, and maybe it’ll spark something in them to eat healthier, or to tell their family to eat healthier or influence their friends. One by one, we hope that we can effect change that causes a ripple effect across the county.”

It sure seemed to already make an impact on how these kids saw and experienced food. An experience they will never forget and take with them throughout their lives. An experience that was created by “a single bite.”

nutrition, Real Food, A Single Bite, health, food education


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