Grow Education “Faces of Food” in New Bedford: Keri Cusson DeFusco and Mikaeala Thiboutot
Meet Keri Cusson DeFusco and Mikaeala Thiboutot, FoodCorps Service Members
Keri and Mikaela work with Grow Education’s partnered elementary schools to co-teach classroom lessons on agriculture, nutrition and healthy lifestyles, support kids to eat healthy foods in the cafeterias, and build a culture of health across the district!
Where do you find inspiration?
Keri: I find inspiration in nature. The diversity of plants and creatures that we have here just in MA amazes me. Nature is resilient and beautiful. My senses are filled when stepping outside away from screens and man-made structures.
Mikaela: I find inspiration in people standing up for what they believe in. It makes me believe in something worth fighting for. That inspires me to keep pushing along and giving life my all.
How do you like to be active?
Mikaela: Most of all, I love to dance! I have been dancing since I was three years old; and I don’t see an end in sight. Other than dancing, I like to stay active by going for walks and playing tennis.
Are there any foods you wouldn’t eat as a child but eat now?
Keri: Tons! I didn’t like the “green specs” (herbs!) my mom would add to recipes. I was also not a fan of onions, green olives, and beets; but now I love them all!
What’s your favorite dish from your culture?
Mikaela: My dad’s entire family is French Canadian. His grandparents came from Quebec. For generations, a recipe for French meat pie has been passed down through my family. While I don’t typically eat much meat, I will make an exception for French meat pie. It’s nice to taste the flavors my ancestors cultivated.
Do you have a favorite food show or movie?
Keri: Food TV is my favorite TV! I love watching Food Network shows like Chopped and Beat Bobby Flay. I also like to watch Gordon Ramsay’s Master Chef and who can forget The Great British Baking Show?!
If you could grow an endless supply of something, what would it be?
Mikaela: I might need an endless supply of rice cakes. It might sound boring, but I add lots of toppings and make them into a delicious snack! My favorite way to eat rice cakes is topped with almond butter, apple butter, banana slices, and chocolate chips. I make sure to put them in the toaster oven so the chocolate melts!
What do you wish you learned about food when you were in 3rd grade?
Keri: I wish I had learned more about food additives when I was in 3rd grade. I wish I knew how to read the ingredients list and not just the nutrition facts. In my opinion it’s so much more important to know WHAT you’re eating rather than how many calories it has.
Mikaela: Most importantly to me, I wish I had a stronger connection to food when I was in 3rd grade. At the time, I was interested in cooking (my best friend and I were plotting our future restaurant and even made sample menus!), but I was not invested in the source of my food. I wish I had learned about how to grow food and source it locally.
What’s something you’ve learned about food that you found interesting or useful?
Keri: The plants we eat are amazing! I’ve learned that transformation is in our own hands and we can do so much to make plants taste and look delicious. Transforming a plants’ texture is the most fun for me. I like to make fluffy cashew desserts and blended vegetable soups.
Mikaela: Having studied nutrition and agriculture in college and working with food for years, I’ve learned so much useful information! One of the biggest takeaways for me personally was learning how to trust my body. Listening to my cravings, my hunger and satiety cues, and generally being present with my food as I eat has transformed my relationship to food.