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Reavis Students Learn About Healthy Eating

On a late September morning, 33 Reavis Elementary sixth graders started learning about healthy eating by drawing their favorite fruits and vegetables on paper chef hats. They drew lots of nature's bounty – including watermelon, cherries, tomatoes, ears of corn, grapes, apples, green beans and a pickle. Slices of pizza, too.

Michelle McBride enjoys a Honey Crisp organic apple.

Maureen Kelleher

Later in the workshop, small groups had one minute to identify all the foods they saw on a "foodscape," a landscape scene in which all the features were edible, such as broccoli trees, bread mountains, etc.  Excited cries went up around the room: Corn! Broccoli! Blueberries!

"How do you spell mozzarella?" one boy asked his teacher.

"We teach everybody about fresh, local sustainable eating," said Megan Munitz, who, with her partner Dennis Ryan, operates Fresh Connections, a nonprofit that teaches healthy eating through workshops and cooking demonstrations. Fresh Connections workshops focus on local, organic and sustainable food.

Although about two-thirds of the students knew the word "organic," the word "sustainable" was less familiar to them.

"Sustainable food means taking care of your land so that next year you can plant food in that land again," said Munitz.  She then asked what colors a tomato can be. This group knew more than just red: orange, green, yellow and white were some of the other colors mentioned. "Part of sustainable means growing a lot of different varieties," Munitz noted.

Jania King shows off her chef's hat.

Maureen Kelleher

Some vegetable varieties were a surprise to the students. "Megan, is that a purple potato?" asked Arrion Fitch, while viewing a slide of fall vegetables.

"If you had the purple potato, would your French fries be purple, too?" Terrance Moore asked.

"Yes, like if you have sweet potato fries, they're orange," Munitz replied. "We're in peak potato season right now."

Eating seasonally is another aspect of sustainability. "Like a watermelon grows in the summer," Terrence said when asked to explain the word "seasonal."

Munitz and Ryan then showed slides of the different peak seasons for different fruits and vegetables. In discussing vegetables that tolerate cold well, Munitz asked how many students liked spinach. Nearly everyone raised their hands, about as many as went up for strawberries.

However, mushrooms, another cold-tolerant crop, got a cooler reception from the crowd. Amid cries of "eew" and "ugh," only about half a dozen students raised hands in their favor. "I like them on my pizza," said one brave soul.

At the end of the workshop, students were treated to Honey Crisp apples. Sweet and crunchy, they lived up to their name perfectly. "It was fun," said Michelle McBride. She liked the apples best. "They're juicy." Before she came, she said, "I didn't learn that much about beets or spinach or Brussels sprouts." Now she knows more.

Posted in Education, Quad Communities

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Local Initiatives Support Corporation Chicago connects neighborhoods to the resources they need to become stronger and healthier.

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