Tuesday, October 4, 2011

HCZ Works to "Educate Eaters" in the Garden, the Cafeteria and Beyond

The Educated Eaters Project ongoing projects include:

Food Service

Lead by Executive Chef Andrew Benson, the cafeteria has set a high standard for school breakfast and lunch. The cafeteria serves fresh made-from-scratch foods and a menu enjoyed by staff and students. All of the meat and dairy served at HCZ is hormone-free, and much of our produce is sourced from local farms in the New York Region. Our menu, which is on an 8-week cycle and focuses on exposing students and adults to a broad range of healthy meals from cuisines around the world, can be found online here: http://hczwellnessconnection.blogspot.com/p/weekly-menu.html

The Wellness Blog
Link: http://hczwellnessconnection.blogspot.com/
This blog provides our students, parents, teachers, community members and staff with the latest updates on the work being done by the Educated Eaters Project plus wellness news from around the Zone and resources for more food and nutrition education. It also works to help provide more background information about how we want to think, talk and relate to food as a community. We’ve developed an ongoing and evolving list of Frequently Asked Questions around food issues for different groups and put together some of the Internet’s best resources. Visit the blog or sign up for it’s updates to keep in touch with ongoing opportunities for nutrition education in the garden and cooking clubs, field trips to local farms, fitness classes at the Armory or just tips on making healthier lifestyle choices on small smart step at a time.

Teaching Gardens
Following the donation of our 5th Floor Terrace Garden at our main building, 35 E. 125th Street, in 2009 we have integrated gardening education into our day and after school programs. The garden program at HCZ includes indoor and outdoor growing systems that are all organic, some are traditional, some are aqua-ponic, and we’re always looking for ways to expand our outdoor classrooms. Our gardens provide a teaching tool that exposes children and adults to the process of growing their own food and introduces new foods in their freshest state.  Throughout the Harlem Children’s Zone there are a number of avid gardeners and community members who help support our efforts to connect people to their food sources through the hands-on activity of gardening. All of our Promise Academy sites have some kind of gardening program for the students to participate in throughout the school year. Several of our After School Programs also have their own gardens or collaborative relationships with local gardens.

Nutrition Education
Food and nutrition can be connected to all academic subject areas—from math to literacy to health to history. The Educated Eaters Project serves to support and integrate curriculum for Promise Academy students, after-school clubs, early childhood education, staff and community members to support nutrition awareness and healthy eating. Educated Eaters is also working to develop our own Zone-specific curriculum based on national standards and best practices. We are currently working with curriculums on the elementary, middle and high school levels and putting together our own professional development workshops for staff and parent education opportunities including cooking classes, farmers market field trips, and basic introductions to nutrition for adults.

The Fun & Fit Resource Center
This is an ongoing project in collaboration with the team behind the annual Fun & Fit in the City Event which we partner with each year to create a collection of books, movies, and teaching tools about food, nutrition and fitness. While we are still searching for the right space, the resources related to food are being housed in the kitchen office shared by Mia and Andrew and an inventory is accessible for anyone on staff who wants to borrow from the library. One day we hope to have a resource center that helps empower members of the community to take control of their own healthy relationship to food and fitness by giving them practical tools for learning how to garden, cook, be active, and navigate to the broader food system.

The Wellness Council
Originally created to guide the food service at Promise Academy, HCZ's Wellness Policy and the Wellness Council that works to help guide it, outlines our commitments to delivering a healthier nutrition environment. This work could not be done without a supportive and engaged staff.  As a community we pledge to:
  1. Protect the HCZ healthy nutrition environment.
  2. Keep “outside” food out of students’ hands and out of their view.
  3. Recognize that food should not be used as a reward or punishment.

Key Collaborations
Educated Eaters realizes how crucial it is to create a web of support for the work we’re doing with key stakeholders throughout the Zone and on the city, state and national level. We works with program directors around HCZ from Early Childhood to Elementary and High School to After School Programs and we’ve developed relationships with other groups and organizations working to support positive change in the arena of childhood food service throughout New York City, identified farms in our region that have educational programs, and reached out to the leaders in school lunch reform around the nation from Alice Water’s Edible Schoolyards to Let’s Move’s Chefs Move To School to Will Allen at Growing Power. These are our models, our peers, and our inspiration.

We have conducted two surveys for pre-assessment and this spring will conduct a post-assessment evaluation, one of the surveys was designed for staff members and one was designed for High School students. Educated Eaters also conducts nutrition surveys and community-wide healthy eating awareness campaigns to create a healthy nutrition environment for children and adults throughout HCZ.

In conjunction with the garden and the cafeteria, Educated Eaters teaches students about the nature's recycling systems through vermicomposting, composting and teaching students the science behind a sustainable system. Because we believe food education is connected to environmental education we are striving to create a program that is sustainable and which can be run by any capable staff with the tools that we are developing and the projects we are putting into place.

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