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

University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., has replaced a fajita bar in one of its dining halls with a superfoods bar, Tommie Media reports.

Aiming to provide more options for athletes and students with dietary restrictions, the new bar offers diners a choice of protein with a variety of toppings, such as beans, fruit, couscous and quinoa.

The superfoods bar has made a few appearances on campus since it was first tried for the school’s football players last summer.

“Word of mouth is getting out, and every day I get a few more people,” Ryan Carlson, a cook at the...

Sponsored Content
gluten free diet

From Stouffer’s.

A large part of menuing allergen-friendly cuisine is deciding which gluten-free items to serve.

In particular, college dining hall operators must decide whether to make gluten-free items in-house or to order gluten-free items from a manufacturer. Some factors to consider are: the size of the university, the demand for gluten-free options,and the ability to have separate gluten-free storage and workspaces in the university dining hall kitchen.

According to FoodService Director , 77% of college and university operators purchase their gluten-free...

Industry News & Opinion

Reading Hospital in West Reading, Pa., is using robots to help deliver patient meals, BCTV reports.

The eight robots, named TUGs, will be used to transport meals from the hospital’s nutrition services department to patient floors at Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical & Patient Care.

Moving at three miles per hour, the robots will follow preprogrammed routes to the HealthPlex, where room ambassadors will remove room service carts from the TUGs and deliver them to patients. The TUGs will then return to nutrition services with dirty dishes for cleaning.

The...

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo has partnered with fast casual Blaze Pizza to offer the chain’s signature pizzas, salads, beverages and desserts at select venues served by Sodexo, including colleges and universities.

Bill Lacey, senior vice president of marketing at Sodexo, said that Blaze’s growth in the fast-casual sector drove the partnership. Blaze opened its first unit in 2012 near the University of California at Irvine. Its pizzas are flash fired, cooking in under 180 seconds, according to the chain—a selling point for busy customers.

FSD Resources