Kids at Grant Alternative School have a taste for healthy food, thanks to an initiative that allows them to cook up ideas, get busy in the kitchen and serve their parents a nutritious meal. The opportunity comes courtesy of Metro Grocery Store’s Green Apple School Program. Grant Alternative applied for and received one of 500 $1000 grants that have been awarded to schools across Ontario this year. With the money, a food plan has been established that sees each of the school’s five classes create a meal and dish it up. Students research recipes, plan meal components, aid in cooking the meal and serving the meal to their guests.
It’s educational for everybody, says Grant Alternative’s Brent Henneberry. Better yet, the school’s families are reaping the rewards. “Not only are the students learning proper nutrition that will carry over into adulthood, but by creating their own monthly meal project and executing it, that’s something they’ll be proud of for the rest of their lives.
“Kids have the chance to shine and say, ‘I made this myself mommy and daddy!’”
There are also a lot of academic components to the program, he points out, including math, reading, problem solving, peer interaction and cooperation. “It fits in really well with what we do at Grant Alternative.”
“I made this myself mommy and daddy!”
The elementary school on Draper Avenue has 107 students in JK to Grade 6 and the program’s fun, hands-on lessons in nutrition, food preparation and smart eating have been a success every single time. In May, the junior and senior kindergarten class presented a healthy sandwich shop, with fruit, veggies and sandwiches. In April, the Grade 1-2 class unveiled its healthy pizza parlour, with choices including spinach and chicken pizza. “They loved it,” Brent says.
Back in November the Grade 5-6 class served up an Asian stir fry, and when it was the Grade 4-5 class’s turn to rule the kitchen, the kids discovered the unexpected. The dish they prepared was spinach gnocchi—an unfamiliar item on their dinner plates at home—but since they made it themselves, they ate it and liked it. Thanks to the meal plan, all the kids are more willing and excited to try new dishes.
This is the second year the school has run the healthy eating program and, besides parents and students, guests for meals have included folks from the retirement home next door. That’s another one of the benefits, says the chair of the parent council. “It has been a good way to engage the community.”
Across Ontario, nearly 3,000 schools have received grants through the Green Apple program in the past six years. It focuses on offering access to healthy food, eliminating unhealthy eating habits and presenting healthy alternatives. For details, see www.greenapple.metro.ca.