Blythe Elementary School has been chosen to take part in “Field to Fork,” a pilot-program to teach nutrition education to students at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.
“We’re going to teach the whole school about nutrition,” Blythe Elementary first-grade teacher Mary Raymond told her class Thursday, Jan. 6. Her class was one of ten chosen to participate in the Fuel Pizza Café’s program this spring.
In order to be considered for the program, interested teachers had to submit essays explaining the ways in which they would incorporate the Field to Fork goals into their curriculum.
In her essay, Raymond outlined plans, including lessons on nutrition, science projects, a reading list and the ways in which her students would share information with their families and fellow students.
“She definitely had a very extensive plan for how she wanted to do it,” Program Nutritionist Allison Mignery said, “from getting the students to work in the garden, to supplementing their learning with reading, and teaching them how to cook.”
As part of the program, Blythe will partner with Fuel Pizza in Davidson and will cultivate a vegetable garden at the school.
In June, the students will harvest the vegetables and take them to the kitchen of their partner Fuel Pizza Café. There, they will get to make their own healthy vegetable pizzas on whole-wheat crust.
In addition to gardening and cooking lessons, Raymond’s focus on having her students share nutrition information with others supports one of the other major tenets of the program.
“One of the goals we have is more indirect,” Mignery said. “We want the children to be voices to their families.”
By going home and requesting healthy foods, like different fruits and vegetables, they will be setting an example for their family members, she said.
This year, Field to Fork is also trying out a new mentoring relationship. Blythe will partner with one of the two middle schools – Turning Point Academy and Midwood Middle School – to develop its garden. Middle school students will grow vegetable seedlings at the Morgan School’s greenhouse, and will then take them to the elementary school once the students are ready to start their garden.
The Blythe first-grade class was one of the youngest to apply for the program, Mignery said. “A lot of the applications were from fourth-grade classes,” she said, “because it tends to fit nicely with their curriculum.”
But implementing this sort of program at an even younger age can be a great thing, she said, as young children can still relate to the information. “A lot of times we teach about getting ‘a rainbow of colors’ in their diets,” Mignery said. “Pizza is an easy way to talk about that rainbow.”
Field to Fork is the second health initiative brought to Blythe over the last year and a half. The Blythe second-grade class was chosen last year to participate in Learn Well, Be Well, a Presbyterian Hospital/ Novant Health initiative providing education and wellness resources to schools.
Being ambassadors for health and sharing their knowledge with other students and family members is also a key element of that program. By having Field to Fork in first grade, students will be exposed to nutrition information even younger.
“We don’t usually get to focus on nutrition,” Raymond said. “I’m just so excited about it.”
The schools will have garden planting parties in April, and will spend the next two months focusing on nutrition education before their trips to Fuel kitchens in June.
Want to learn more?
The ten schools selected to participate in this year’s Field to fork program are: Turning Point Academy, Midwood Middle School, Blythe Elementary School, Cotswold Elementary School, Beverly Woods Elementary School, Olde Providence Elementary School, Barringer Academic Center, Lake Wylie Elementary School, Pinewood Elementary School and Irwin Avenue Elementary School. The Morgan School will not have a garden, but will contribute the use of its greenhouse. For more information about the Mecklenburg County Fruit & Vegetable Coalition go to http://mcfvc.charmeck.org; for Fuel Pizza Café go to www.fuelpizza.com and for Charlotte Green go to www.charlottegreen.org.