Harvesting Healthy Food Choices
Bennett Foundation to Fund Expansion of Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Program
More children in Alief ISD may get the chance to get their hands dirty in a school-based garden through the Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Program. Currently, the program is in place at Chambers Elementary where 40 second-grade students work the garden and then learn about preparing nutritious meals with the produce in the kitchen.
Recently, Chambers Elementary hosted Michael Bennett, Sr., father of National Football League (NFL) stars Michael and Martellus Bennett. Mr. Bennett was representing the Bennett Foundation which is looking to expand the program to other elementary schools in Alief as well as through a community-based partnership with an area church. Mr. Bennett and Foundation representatives, including Trustee Tiffany Thomas, toured the garden and then spoke with students and nutrition employees about what is being grown in the garden and how to prepare the food.
“Childhood obesity is an epidemic in this country and we are looking at programs that are effective in combating that disease,” Bennett said. “Students not only eat healthy, nutritious food in this program but they can share with their parents and siblings about proper nutrition and how simple it is to eat healthy. So, instead of ordering french fries, they can order a salad or vegetables which are better for you, and cheaper.”
All were served a tasty broccoli and leek soup after a hands-on demonstration from nutrition workers. Students were also able to enjoy a parfait made with low-fat yogurt and fresh fruit.
“We are trying to demonstrate to students how easy it is to eat healthy and how good it is for you,” said Alex Tipton from the Nutrition Department. “Students not only had fun in making the parfaits, they also said it was a tasty treat. This is knowledge they will take home with them and share with their families.”
The garden now features spinach, beans, green leaf lettuce, radishes, cucumbers, yellow squash, summer squash, watermelon and okra. That is just a start to what the garden can hold.
Bennett talked to the students about the importance of proper nutrition and how it can pay a lifetime of dividends. “You don’t have to be a professional football player to benefit from good nutrition. Not only does eating healthy food help you in athletics it also helps you study better and makes you better prepared for schoolwork.”
Alief ISD is looking to expand the program to other elementary schools and the Bennett Foundation would like to assist in that plan.
“There are many reasons why we are looking to expand this program,” Bennett said. “This program not only teaches good nutrition but it gives students a sense of ownership as they work to grow the produce.”
Chambers Elementary principal Jannae Jernberg said she highly recommends this program to others. “This has been a great program for our school. The kids really enjoy the days they are working outside in the garden and they have enjoyed the foods that are prepared using those ingredients. Who would have thought that elementary age kids would enjoy leek soup, but they did!”