From farm to fork
First Lady Michelle Obama launched the Let’s Move campaign to combat childhood obesity. A component of that campaign is Chef’s Move! To Schools where chefs across the country are asked to adopt a local school on educating children about food and nutrition.  Pinewood Elementary School eagerly joined the initiative and looked for a nutritionist and chef to help them with the program. 

Fourth-grade teacher Laura Hoeing is leading the program at Pinewood and arranged for Allison Mignery, registered dietitian with the Mecklenburg County Health Department, and Bradley Labarre, executive chef with Galway Hooker Restaurant, to educate fourth-grade students about food and nutrition. 

“Students need to become aware about food and where it comes from as early as possible to help prevent childhood obesity,” Hoeing said. “We feel that it is important for them to learn about nutrition through real life experiences.”

The school started growing a garden so students could see the entire food cycle from farm to fork. The garden allows teachers to bring their science curriculum to life and students can see where food comes from, how it grows, how to prepare it and how the body uses it.  Teachers did composting lessons with the students and a local construction company came to help build the garden from donated supplies.  With the help of expert gardeners, students planted squash, pumpkins, peppers, tomatoes, okra, beans and other vegetables in early May.  Neighborhood volunteers helped keep the garden watered and growing during summer break.  This fall, students were able to harvest the crops they planted in the spring and plant their fall crop of mustard, turnip greens and onions.

Once the garden started growing, Mignery visited fourth graders and taught them the difference between whole and processed foods.  The kids participated in a food memory game in which cards with pictures of whole and processed food pairs (i.e. a fresh tomato and a bottle of ketchup) were laid face-down on the floor and they had to turn over two at a time, trying to make a match.

 “Nutrition education in schools is one of the key components needed to effectively decrease the rate of childhood obesity,” Mignery said. “Encouraging more community members to get involved in the initiative can assist in raising awareness and influencing children's eating habits.”

Chef Labarre visited Pinewood Elementary in October to demonstrate a cooking lesson for the students. Labarre showed students the difference between packaged, store-bought pasta and pesto sauce and these same products made from fresh ingredients.  The students’ responses to what pesto sauce was made of included grass, pickles and lettuce among other green items.  The kids stood in amazement while they watched the basil, oil and cheese swirl around in the food processor to make pesto and the pasta transformed from flour and eggs into familiar spaghetti noodles and ravioli.