Teaching Moments

Veterans Park Academy, gardensLEHIGH ACRES, Fla.—A garden at 1,500-student Veterans Park Academy for the Arts, a K-8 school in Lee County Public Schools, has been the impetus for a nutrition education program.

Last year Mark Wilson, foodservice manager at the school, received one of 10 Love Your Veggies grants from Hidden Valley. With the $10,000 from the grant, Wilson created a raised-bed garden. The garden has 52 4-x-8-foot raised beds.

Wilson and his foodservice staff planted the garden, but he said the teachers at the school were very supportive of his plan and helped with the building of the boxes for the beds. Items in the garden include several varieties of tomatoes, green and red peppers, jalapeños, cabbage, broccoli, thyme, basil and rosemary.

Wilson said a key element to the garden is getting students involved to help increase vegetable consumption in the cafeteria. Each week Wilson sends an e-mail to the teachers asking which classes would like to take a stint tending the garden. “During the day the students help take care of [the garden], so they are more apt to eat [vegetables] instead of turning their nose up at them,” he said.

Veterans Park Academy, gardens“We were hit hard in this area by the economy so my plan is that once the vegetables in the garden become ready to harvest, I would be making care baskets for the kids to take home,” Wilson said about the reason he wanted to start the garden.

“I’m very interactive with the students and I talked to them about what they eat at home,” he said. “They told me at home they eat cereal or cold sandwiches because their parents work and they are at home by themselves. I asked them if they would like to learn how to cook and they said yes. That’s how after-school cooking classes got started. I had a few kids who really wanted to learn how to cook out of necessity so they could eat other things besides cold sandwiches or cereal for dinner every day.”

Each Wednesday a group of about 14 students get hands-on training from Wilson in the school’s kitchen. “I teach the kids what to do with the vegetables and how to cook them and prepare meals with them,” Wilson said. “I send recipes home with them so that when they get home they are able to do something with the vegetables. I hope that this thing grows so that the students see the vegetables in the garden, they eat them in the cafeteria and then they carry that home as well.”

Veterans Park Academy, gardensThe students in the after-school classes started with basics like sanitation and food safety before moving on to vegetables and meat cookery. This year, the students are doing a four-week cake decorating cycle to give the classes a playful element, according to Wilson.

Wilson also is getting support from the local community. A company is donating a greenhouse so that starter plants can be grown. “This year I had to buy my plants, so I hope that next year we won’t have to buy as many plants. I hope that in the years to come the garden will be self-supporting so that we don’t have to buy any plants and we can use the greenhouse here to get starts.” Wilson said he hopes the older students at the school can help him maintain the greenhouse.

“I think I scare people,” Wilson said. “I always tell people to think outside of the box, but my assistant says I don’t have a box,” he said about the next step in the program. “This is all for the kids and whatever I can think of to help the kids, I’ll do. We are starting nutrition classes for the elementary kids using the garden to tie in as a tool for proper eating. When they see the vegetables and they can pick them it helps with the nutritional eating at home.”

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

Students and union representatives are petitioning Eastern Michigan University’s plan to outsource its foodservice operations, calling for the school to delay such a move to allow for further discussion with stakeholders, MLive reports .

EMU last week announced a tentative agreement to hand over its residential, catering and retail foodservices to Chartwells, a deal the university’s interim president avered would enable the school to expand and upgrade its eateries while maintaining high food quality, MLive says.

Opponents of the plan say they are concerned about what they...

Sponsored Content
whole grain pasta foodservice menu

From Barilla.

With younger consumers eager to explore new flavors and better-for-you options, whole-grain pasta is winning greater acceptance in American diets.

As more and more college and university students seek out whole grains in their meals, dishes featuring whole grains are on-deck to become menu mainstays.

At the University of Iowa, whole-grain foods have won general acceptance, says Barry Greenberg, executive chef for university dining. Two marketplace dining facilities on campus offer whole-grain pasta as a regular option and incorporate it into baked...

Managing Your Business
woman awake

Summer is no idle time for foodservice directors working at colleges and universities: They’re planning for the futures of their programs. Operators in FoodService Director magazine’s 2016 College and University Census reported an average 16,000-plus students at their schools. During a recent summit FSD hosted with a dozen C&U operators, the people behind some of the nation’s top programs told us what’s keeping them up at night. (FSD is sharing their thoughts anonymously to allow their answers to remain as candid as possible.)

More mouths to feed, but not more resources

At a...

Menu Development
cia menus of change

The Menus of Change initiative aims to do nothing less than change the way the world eats. A collaboration of the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School, the program sets out broad principles and ambitious goals that require fundamental changes in foodservice, agriculture, health policy, food processing and even what happens at the family dinner table.

But the means of achieving those lofty ends are often small advances and tweaks to the collective mindset, as the CIA’s annual conference on the initiative reminded attendees this week.

Here...

FSD Resources