Originally published May 13, 2021 in The Reporter.
By Richard Bammer
Teachers and students at Suisun Valley K-8 School are taking nutrition to heart and, at the same time, literally getting a little soil on their arms and legs.
Staff at the Lambert Road campus in rural Fairfield noticed a decline in student awareness about healthy eating and decided to do something about it, according to a press release issued earlier this week.
So Jas Bains Wright, Heather Merodio and Daniel Kimble birthed their brainchild, a plan “to provide support, education, and hands-on experiences for students and their families to encourage healthy food choices, focus on farm-to-fork eating, and get students moving more,” they reported in the prepared statement.
The three-part plan includes a series of virtual healthy cooking classes, with a focus on garden-grown ingredients for students and families, they explained.
In addition, students participate in multifaceted physical education and agriscience lessons on nutrition, food label literacy, movement, and eating a balanced, healthy diet straight from the school’s garden.
In order to reach the maximum number of students, monthly virtual cooking events are being held, the program leaders said.
The school provides the menu, ingredients and a guided cooking lesson for the virtual
events. Additionally, the students are tracking their activity, and they are analyzing food labels and marketing tactics associated with less-healthy food choices.
More than 60 families participated in the school’s first two virtual cooking nights. In the most recent session, families with students from kindergarten to eighth grade prepared a hearty and saucy vegetarian rigatoni with chickpeas paired with a mixed green salad drizzled with a homemade vinaigrette. Families agreed it will be a mainstay for their meatless Mondays from now on, Bains Wright, Merodio, and Kimble said.
The virtual cooking events are so popular, they fill up within hours of being offered, they pointed out.
“The virtual cooking class series is a great opportunity for students and families to learn by doing,” said Merodio. “In this case, the students had a lesson on perennial herbs, food groups, vegetarian proteins, and nutrition.”
“They also got a fantastic meal to enjoy that incorporated all the information we have focused on in agriscience,” she added.
Each student also has access to the campus’ large working garden, where they plan, plant, grow, tend, harvest, and cook their crops.
In addition, Suisun Valley’s PE teacher offers opportunities for students to get moving more and have fun while doing it.
“This coordinated effort between staff and students will lead to higher levels of activity, healthier food choices, and greater student success during these challenging times,” the program team wrote in the statement.