Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Food Field Trip: Family Life Academy Charter School

Chef Andrew and I took a field trip up to the South Bronx to visit Chef Bennett at Family Life Academy Charter School (FLACS). We'd heard that Chef Bennett had a commitment to serving freshly-made wholesome food in the school cafeteria and we wanted to peek in on his operation and see for ourselves.

Family Life Academy is a great example of a school community, like Promise Academy, that is taking wellness seriously and interested in feeding children a balanced, healthy diet that will set them up to succeed not just in the classroom, but well into adulthood. In February 2010, FLACS began to cook student meals on site as opposed to the regular practice of having frozen meals delivered to the school and then reheated.

FLACS also incorporates a science curriculum that offers new vocabulary and lessons about food’s biological impact on our bodies. The goal of the program is to help students have a healthy relationship with food. In addition to the food being served in the cafeteria, FLACS has several rooftop planters where students help grow vegetables and herbs and learn about the nature's natural recycling systems using worm bins and composting.

We were really impressed by the food service operation at Family Life Academy and wanted to share some of what we were most encouraged by from our visit:

  • The food service staff was doing a great job of engaging the students in what was being served and on the day we visited kids were happily eating steamed kale and filling their own trays with items of their choosing from the salad bar
  • The Teachers and Staff were helping in the cafeteria, monitoring the salad bar, encouraging the children to try the soup, maintaining order in a crowded lunchroom
  • There was a genuine enthusiasm and an obvious interest from students and staff in creating a healthy school environment for the students at FLACS
  • Just like Chef Andrew, Chef Bennett works hard to feed students a balanced diet and introduce them to a variety of cuisines, some of the most interesting menu items at the school were: Ropa Vieja, Miso Soup, Fish with Avocado Sauce and Root Vegetable Mash...who knows? Maybe you'll see some of these items showing up in our cafeteria!

It's always encouraging to learn and see how other people are transforming school lunch programs and supporting kids in eating for life. Way to go Chef Bennett and everyone at FLACS! Thanks for letting us come and visit and challenging us to create an even great community commitment to wellness here at HCZ.

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