The first-graders at Fairmont-Samara Community School in the Bronx were skeptical when Juliette Moffroid told them to close their eyes for a taste test. They didn’t know what she was going to offer them, but they knew it would be healthy and maybe not so good. (It was pears and plums.) By the second taste test, they were excited and closed their eyes before being asked. About half of them actually liked the butternut squash.
Juliette has joined Samara as a service member as part of a partnership between Children’s Aid and AmeriCorps’ FoodCorps program. FoodCorps’ mission is to connect kids with healthier food in school, so that they can lead healthier lives and reach their full potential. FoodCorps Service members focus on delivering hands-on food and gardening lessons, helping to create a healthy cafeteria environment and supporting a schoolwide culture of health.
Gary Perez, a community school director at Children’s Aid, knew that among the ways to turn around struggling schools, he had to find a way to get healthy food to the kids.
“If kids aren’t eating well, they fall asleep in class,” he said.
Go!Healthy worked with Gary and the principal to develop and build a school garden. But everyone understood that it was not enough to grow the food. The kids had to eat it. That led to Go!Healthy facilitating a partnership with FoodCorps, which places service members in the schools full time.
In addition to cooking with the kids, Juliette incorporates food education into the regular curriculum. The third-graders study diverse cultures so they are also learning about making and eating varieties of soup popular in different countries. Outside of the classroom, Juliette works to promote a schoolwide culture of health in a variety of ways including hosting tastings in the cafeteria to familiarize students with new menu items, supporting the school wellness council and coordinating recycling and composting efforts.
“The implementation of FoodCorps at Samara has been incredibly successful due to the community school model,” said Whitney Reuling, director of food and nutrition programs at Children’s Aid.
A community school focuses not only on academics but on other elements vital to a student’s success like health and social services.
Children’s Aid partners with 22 schools around the city to provide academic enrichment programs, health services, parent engagement strategies, and much more to give students the best opportunities to succeed.
The relationship between teachers and Children’s Aid staff at Samara made it easy to support a healthy community at the school with the children and their parents. “Everyone is willing to work with me to coordinate curriculum,” Juliette said.
“I don’t know what I would do without [the community school model],” says Gary