Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Year Two of Service Begins With A Summer Harvest and Cafeteria Improvement Plans

Adrianna gave a presentation at the FoodCorps National Orientation in Portland, Oregon. 

This post is written by Adriana Perez, our FoodCorps member who partners with the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders (PS457)/the Family School (PS443). Adriana is dedicating a second year of service to engaging students and teachers in creating a school wide culture of health through experiential learning in their school garden, cafeteria and classroom. 

I recently returned from FoodCorp’s National Orientation in Portland, Oregon, where I was able to take a deep dive into planning for my second year of service at the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders (PS457)/The Family School (PS443) in the Bronx.

During the week-long orientation, I brainstormed with FoodCorps staff and Service Members from across the country, led a session on how to overcome challenging work relationships, renewed my energy and ambitions for the coming school year through project management workshops, and formed a new appreciation for all the work that I accomplished last year.

 This year, I will not only be working at the two schools, but I will be returning to school myself. I will be entering a Master’s program at New York University in Food Studies with a concentration in Food Policy and Advocacy. My courses will help me expand my knowledge on food system issues, increase my understanding of how food and cultures intersect and how to effectively advocate for food system change. My FoodCorps experience at PS457 and PS443 last year has deepened and solidified my belief that not only should healthy, sustainable food be available to every community, but that every community should have the opportunity to learn more about where food comes from, how to prepare it, and how to have a balanced relationship with food. Through my studies at NYU, I will have the knowledge to educate my school community in local food systems and policy, and train them to be school wellness champions.

This year, I have decided to focus on three areas of technical assistance:  garden program development, cafeteria renovation and professional development for teachers. Last year, I worked with the Wellness Council, students and teachers at PS457 and PS443 to rebuild the schools’ garden spaces. I learned how to navigate scheduling conflicts for garden classes and garden management support from students, staff and parents. This year, teachers will be able to schedule their classes on a regular basis to visit the gardens. Garden clubs can help plant, maintain and harvest gardens on their own school properties as well as the community garden, a garden managed by both schools. Once the vegetables and herbs are ready to harvest, parents will be able to pick up or harvest vegetables during dismissal.

Since summer harvesting was so successful at PS443/PS457, Adriana invited parents to pick up seasonal produce at dismissal during the first week of school. What a healthy way to start the new school year!

As my primary responsibility is to work at PS 457, the teachers will not only receive teaching assistance during classes in the garden, but I will also provide support in creating lessons and strategies so that food education can be incorporated into common core standards for every grade. My objective is to equip teachers with tools that will encourage healthy eating for their students while introducing new subject-specific concepts and reinforcing previous lessons.

Finally, my biggest ambition for the year is to work with the Wellness Councils, which now exist as two separate councils, to undertake cafeteria improvements. These changes can be as simple as streamlining the traffic flow on the lunch line or as complex as providing a public announcement system or purchasing new tables for the cafeteria. The Wellness Councils will help me create excitement and strengthen support and engagement from the administration and cafeteria staff as well as aides and parent volunteers managing students during lunch. My hope is that through these changes, all students will be able to have a more enjoyable cafeteria experience through creating excitement around the school food menu in school and greater efficiency in the cafeteria.

This year will be challenging, but I plan to rise to the occasion and hit the ground running with these goals clearly set out before me. I look forward to working with the teachers, meeting new staff, and collaborating more closely with the principles of PS457 and PS443, Ms. Febus and Ms. Penn.

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