Stirring Up the Food Movement

March 29, 2010

Each of the 10 tables in Kuaihelani Learning Center was adorned with a basket of fresh produce. Intended as more than centerpieces, the produce baskets were the learning tools for Punahou's 7th annual Service Learning Teacher Institute on Feb. 25.

Hosted by Luke Center for Public Service, the 2010 teacher's institute, ONO: Out-of-the-box Nutritious Options, is a sampling of innovative ways to bring healthy and locally grown foods into the classroom.

"We invited educators from both public and private schools ... and this year we've chosen to stay local," said Luke Center Director Carrie Morgan.

The produce baskets were as local as they could get. Referred to as CSA, or community-supported agriculture, produce baskets are assembled at the farm and delivered to or picked up by consumers. CSAs allow people to support local farmers by receiving locally grown produce on a regular basis. It is one approach in a growing trend to get local produce into homes.

"Undoubtedly, you all know that there's a movement to help kids lead healthier lives by understanding where their food comes from," Morgan said in her opening remarks to the group of more than 100 educators who traveled from all over the state to attend.

Farm-to-School
Dexter Kishida started off the evening's program. As a school foods coordinator for Kokua Hawaii Foundation, he is an advocate of the farm-to-school movement for Hawai'i schools and is involved with the foundation's 'Aina in Schools program.

"The work that you do as educators is vital. ... We can't make changes in the cafeteria without the support of educators," Kishida said.

Playing with Food
The most interactive part of the evening invited educators to work in teams to complete several food-related activities. Using only the CSA basket and a "virtual cafe," members of each table created full menus, consisting of an appetizer, main and side dishes and a dessert, which they later shared with the larger group.

Educators were also challenged to think of how they would incorporate CSAs in their curricula. They had three minutes before sharing ideas with others at their table.

Liesl Eng, an elementary teacher at Ala Wai School, said, "As a language arts teacher, I would have my kids engage in descriptive writing ... where in the world did these come from? Describe the climate, what they look like..."

Rene Cruz, a nutritionist for a local school, already has her students log what they eat. "It teaches them to have a sense of responsibility for everything they put in their mouths," she said.

Teachers also helped with prepping the food for part of the evening's dinner. Each table was responsible for mixing several ingredients to make sweet potato salad and fruit salad ambrosia. Following a healthy dinner, which was provided by Sodexho from Waialae Elementary Public Charter School, Deanna Moncrief spoke to the group about the 'Aina (Actively Integrating Nutrition & Agriculture) in Schools program. "Launched in 2006, 'Aina in Schools trains docents to teach nutrition lessons, lead agricultural field trips, educate about recycling and other community outreach in Hawai'i's elementary schools."

Several Punahou educators, including Academy teacher Eliza Leineweber '92 Lathrop and Junior School teachers Jan Yap, Malia Chong '87 and Laurie Ching presented their integrated curricula, which includes high school students and sixth-graders and combines math, science, English and home economics through the use of Punahou's first classroom garden, Ka Papa Mala o Punahou.

The evening proved successful, with educators coming away with a sense of the movement's importance, as well as new lesson plans and classroom activities, local recipes, ideas for curriculum sharing and other resources.

"The beauty of the teacher institute is that it's a collaborative opportunity. It's great for educators to interact and work together and meet each other," said Morgan.

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