Parents And Teachers Collaborate On Healthy Eating For Kids

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It’s early days for a group of parents and administrators of Athens City Schools who are trying to find a way to provide better meals at schools, while educating students and families about broader issues of nutrition.

Jessica Reed, a Morrison Elementary parent, started the Facebook page ACS Nutrition after a discussion began about school lunches on another parenting page. She and other group members have involved people who work in the schools, and members of local organizations.

One of the things currently in the works is a grant for a salad bar at Morrison Elementary. Michelle Corrigan, kids director at Live Healthy Appalachia, said that she is working with some of the school staff to get the ball rolling.

“East and West (Elementaries) already have salad bars, so we were hoping to get one at Morrison,” said Corrigan.

“The school will write the grant and hopefully get it started before the end of the year,” said Tom Gibbs, associated supt. of Athens City Schools, who has been involved with the effort in his capacity as administrator.

“We have been trying to work together as best as we can,” said Gibbs, “It started off just with talking about school lunches and broadened out into food and nutrition — not just quality of food, but the whole concept of food insecurity as well.”

Corrigan, too, has been working to this end by implementing food and nutrition education at the third- and fourth-grade levels. She teaches cooking classes in the schools, sending home recipes and other materials with the aim of helping families provide inexpensive but nutritionally-rich meals.

Another reason for holding cooking classes in the schools, said Corrigan, is to taste test foods that may be served in the schools in the future.

“A lot of third-grades just tasted tofu for the first time,” said Corrigan. “We made a stir-fry with tofu and most of them loved it. Then they go home and tell their parents about it.”

The recipes are broken down into cost, said Corrigan. Most of the servings are only a couple of dollars at most — each.

With this in mind, Gibbs said, the more food that can be grown locally and used directly in the schools, the better. The use of local food has been a dream, but one that is difficult to realize, said Gibbs. It’s much more expensive and time-intensive than buying pre-packaged food from a large manufacturer. The food itself is more expensive to buy, and it changes the jobs of kitchen staff, most of whom are only in the schools for a couple of hours a day.

Community Food Initiative (CFI) wrote a greenhouse grant many years ago, said Gibbs, part of which was meant to be used for greens served in the school cafeterias.

It didn’t work out that way at the time, but now Gibbs is hoping to use the greenhouse space — some of the space is used by FFA and other groups — to start seeds for a new community garden project. Some of the community gardens will be housed at elementary schools.

“We want to share whatever resources we have,” said Gibbs, “because we should all be working together.”