Do you remember home economics class? You know, where you learned basic cooking skills and other home-related tasks?
It may be an antiquated class for today’s high schools, but the idea of learning healthy cooking skills is far from outdated.
One New Jersey high school is taking its culinary class to a whole new level. Ramsey High School’s Culinary Arts program, led by Mrs. Amy Iervolino, is more than just your average cooking class.
Iervolino’s class not only teaches culinary skills, but also the impact that our food choices, and food production, have on the environment and our well-being. Throughout the half-year course, students learn about food origination, explore the impact of large-scale food production, and discuss the concept of farm-to-table by sourcing food from local Farmers’ Markets, as well as a school courtyard garden maintained by Iervolino and her classes.
Ramsey’s courtyard garden is one of over 500 Teaching Gardens nationwide. About a decade ago, the American Heart Association teamed up with child-nutrition activist and philanthropist, Kelly Meyer, to create the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens program. The network, composed of schools and other community groups, addresses food access concerns, healthy eating and nutrition, and environmental stewardship through the Teaching Gardens program.
“Although the lesson plans are geared toward younger students, I was able to adapt to my high school students, many of whom had never gardened before,” said Iervolino. “They are amazed that they can grow fruits and vegetables in our little courtyard garden.”
The joy Iervolino’s students experience is part of the success of Teaching Gardens. By engaging youth in gardening, schools and communities can empower students to become champions of change and promote healthier lifestyles for their families and school communities.
Unfortunately, one third of U.S. children are overweight or obese and more than half of U.S. kids have a poor diet according to the Association’s healthy diet score. Eating more fruits and vegetables is directly linked to living a longer, healthier life. In fact, eating just 2.5 cups of fruits and vegetables a day could reduce risk of heart attack and stroke.
Schools can get involved by joining the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens Network. This one-stop shop features everything schools need to start or enhance a school garden. In addition, schools can apply for grant opportunities to fund garden needs, download free gardening materials and resources and access digital standards-based gardening and nutrition education curriculum. Schools that sign up online can also download a Teaching Gardens Network certificate and have their school name featured on the website.
For more information or to join the Teaching Gardens Network, click here.
Senior communications director for the American Heart Association in New Jersey, Lehigh Valley and Northeast PA. Dedicated to being a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.