So, about lunch at One Spark… I bet you’ve never seen middle school age children eat lunch like this.
When we talked about having “Healthy Lunch”, we weren’t kidding. Each week, Laura carefully plans the menu for the next week, often including fresh, donated vegetables and eggs from our families’ gardens. Our mornings start with students having the opportunity to help prep the day’s meal, from the chopping of vegetables (for salads, sauces, and sautés), to the cracking of hardboiled eggs, to the breading of eggplant, to the gutting of pumpkins (to make a pie we enjoyed the same day). Our students are learning to not only eat well, but to be a part of the process of enjoying the preparation of real food that feeds their growing bodies and their souls. Some of our students break away from a game of pool before class starts to get a spot at the cutting board.
Beyond just freshly prepared food, we make very little waste. Anything left on our plates or at the end of the week is composted… Kay’s chickens are very thankful. Our meals are also served on all reusable plates with real silverware! And, napkins are real cloth, laundered regularly. Beverages may include freshly squeezed lemonade, home brewed iced tea, mint water, water with cantaloupe (yes, delicious!), or just plain wonderful water. You will never see a Snapple or a juice box as an option.
When lunch is over, students are asked to volunteer to help wash and dry the dishes, and each week it gets easier to find willing participants. Our One Spark students are learning to be a team. In fact, today after I finished my lunch, I walked into the kitchen to find 5 students who had (on their own) started the washing, and were having a blast doing so.
I was prompted to write another post about healthy food after hearing more about what students are eating at local schools. I challenge anyone reading this post to send it on, and ask their school what is being done to inspire students to eat better.
While it is true it is much easier to do what we do on a small scale, and as a private organization, I do know this: if the choices are healthy and there is no pressure to eat unhealthy foods, students WILL eat better. Schools have to stop taking the easy route…using junk food to fundraise, or putting out carts of junk food, alongside a token orange, and expecting kids to have a healthy attitude about healthy food. Providing those temptations on a daily basis is just not wise. Junk food may be quick and easy now, but the costs down the line are not worth it.
Teaching children healthy habits is one of the most important things we can do- and in order to get kids to buy in, we really have to believe it, for ourselves and the students. Our students have tried more new foods in 8 weeks than some have in their lives. And guess what? We have heard from parents that, when not with us, our students are (more often than not) making a healthier choice. We are so proud of them!
Come by for lunch sometime! Better yet, get involved, because lunch in our community is a special time, for everyone.
Top photo: Spaghetti squash, tomato sauce with kale, and fresh parmesan. Mixed baby greens and vegetables with freshly made olive oil-balsamic dressing.
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Above: fruit salad with grapes, kiwi, apples, oranges and pomegranate seeds. Mixed salad with feta, almonds, and more.
Below: Prepping eggplant parmesan in the kitchen before class.
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