Establishing “Healthy Roots” at Healdsburg Junior High and Cali Calmécac Language Academy

Students at Healdsburg Junior High School and Cali Calmécac Language Academy have been growing “Healthy Roots” this year ~  growing and then preparing recipes with seasonal vegetables from their school gardens. From the fall harvest of tomatoes, salad greens, summer squash, peppers, beans and cucumbers, students created their favorite salad recipes, practicing safe food preparation skills including cleaning, chopping and slicing.  They learned how easy it is to make Italian salad dressing and came up with ingredients to personalize the recipe. Using My Plate concepts, students learned the importance of eating a variety of fresh foods every day and easy ways to make healthy food choices.  In our second lesson, we prepared a Winter Citrus Salad, with dark greens, radishes, olives and mandarins. The different flavors exposed students to new styles of salad. We correlated the colors of the vegetables and fruits to their nutrients (phytochemicals/antioxidents/vitamins) to understand that eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables is a recipe for health and fights many diseases. Students also learned tips on how to choose the freshest, ripest, and nutrient-dense vegetables.  Feedback from these lessons was very positive and many students left class wanting to make these recipes at home. Most recently, we compared whole foods to processed foods, preparing and tasting raw and steamed broccoli harvested from the school garden and tasting packaged broccoli soup. We compared the nutrition facts of several examples of foods, both fresh as they occur in nature and packaged, asking the students which provided the greatest health benefits and had the best flavor. The steamed broccoli was voted the favorite by the majority of students. This lesson raised awareness of what is in the foods we eat,  giving students information to make healthy choices and leading them to think more about whole fresh foods as tasty alternatives to the packaged foods marketed to them.

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