When professionally-trained chef and Registered Dietitian Tessa Nguyen moved from North Carolina to South Korea to teach English, she knew she had to stock up on snacks. “In many Asian cultures, it’s customary to bring a small gift when you start a new job,” says Tessa. “Knowing this, I wanted to bring something with me that would serve as an American snack souvenir and also be allergy friendly for my students.”
Since March 2018, she has been teaching English to elementary school kids in both the city and the countryside while using food as a learning tool in the classroom. “Being of Vietnamese, Polish and Hungarian descent meant food, culture and cooking were strong influences in my life from a young age,” says Tessa. That’s why, when tasked with teaching conversational English to more than 200 kids in grades one through six, she wanted to incorporate cooking and nutrition into her curriculum. This turned out to be a winning strategy for Tessa who says, “my students love food, and eating, so cooking is an instinctive way for them to practice English and learn life-skills along the way.”
Food is a great way to get kids interested in learning, but it also has the ability to bring people together – especially when everyone can eat the same food at the same table. Navigating food allergies in a school setting is becoming more difficult for educators and parents, which is why having foods free of multiple allergens is such a relief for teachers like Tessa. She is able to pass out handfuls of 88 Acres seed butter pouches and seed bars without having to exclude any of the kids from snack time. The most inspired snack combination she has seen so far was when one of her students spread Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter on top of a Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Seed Bar.
Tessa uses 88 Acres as her back-to-school snack solution because her kids are always hungry. Even though school lunches are free in South Korea, many teachers like to have healthy, tasty snacks on hand. “I keep a drawer in my desk stocked with 88 Acres bars and seed butters for my students. They pop in throughout the day to see what kinds of snacks I have whenever they’re feeling peckish,” she says.
And the fact that 88 Acres is free of multiple allergens makes Tessa’s job that much easier. Most of the kids with food allergies in Tessa’s classroom can’t eat peanuts, but milk and eggs are the most common food allergens among school-age kids in South Korea, according to several studies. And while sesame is not one of the official top food allergens in the US, it is in South Korea and incidents are rising.
Back in the US, it is estimated that one in every 13 children has a food allergy. That’s two kids in every classroom. As that number has risen over time, more and more US schools are instituting nut-free policies, leaving many educators and parents wondering what to feed their kids during school. The ability to use 88 Acres to navigate different food allergies in different cultures makes our snacks a reliable back-to-school solution for teachers, parents, and kids around the world.
As someone with food allergies herself, Tessa’s number one reason for bringing 88 Acres with her to South Korea was because “they’re delicious,” she says. It can’t get much simpler than that.
Tessa Nguyen, RD, LDN is a chef and founder of Taste Nutrition Consulting. In addition to teaching elementary school kids, Tessa continues to run her virtual private practice for clients around the world.