Brooks Elementary students at healthy eating class.

Gwendolyn Brooks Elementary’s commitment to helping students excel in their studies does not begin and end with the classroom. Assistant Principal Tom Shuman took note that too many kids were quickly disregarding healthy items on their lunch trays, meaning that just a short time later, hungry tummies set in with a negative effect on learning. Mr. Shuman thought that along with learning history and math, a special ‘class’ on healthy eating habits would be fun and educational for students. Mr. Shuman reached out to the District’s food service provider, Aramark, to partner with and discuss what might be done to combat what he was seeing. The result was the development of an activity to encourage trying new things, experiment with dips and new flavors, and ultimately help them return to classrooms ready to learn.

Brooks student taste testingOn January 17, instead of PE, students headed to the gym to meet Aramark Food Director Denise Giammarrusco, have some healthy snacks, and learn more about healthy food habits, why we need them, and how to make them an everyday practice.

Students donned chef hats and experimented with flavors on their trays with raisins, celery, carrots, sun butter, and ranch dressing. “This was a fun collaboration with Brooks that gave kids a dedicated time and place to try something that perhaps they hadn’t before,” said D428 Food Service Manager Mike Chamness. “Maybe not everyone liked what they got to try, and that’s okay, but many did and had fun in the process!”Brooks healthy snack trays

In addition to encouraging healthy eating habits, there was also concern with the amount of food waste happening. “We’re hoping to address two issues at once,” said Mr. Shuman. “Engaging our kids and understanding more about why they were not eating their fruits and vegetables and giving them options to try things in a new way will hopefully also mean less untouched food is hitting the trash cans.”

Since piloting this class at Brooks, Chamness, and Giammarrusco are looking forward to continuing this effort with other elementary schools in the District. “The more we can interact with the students and hear what’s working for them and what’s not, the better we can do to ensure they are getting the nutrition they need to be successful in the classroom,” added Giammarrusco.


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