The New York State Department of Health says nearly 35 percent of city students are obese or overweight, and this week's New Yorker of the Week wants to change that by bringing gardens and kitchens to schools.
They put their textbooks aside and bring knives to the table.
For second-graders at P.S. 216 in Gravesend, warm bean dip is on the lesson plan. Kate Brashares hopes this hands-on learning leads to a healthier lifestyle.
"Kids nowadays are in an environment where it's not easy for them to eat healthy food," says Kate Brashares, executive director of Edible Schoolyard NYC. "Processed food is everywhere. It's in fast food, it's on television. It's easy and its cheap."
That's why Brashares' organization, Edible Schoolyard NYC, is mixing things up. Four years ago, she introduced edible education to low-income neighborhoods in the city. Students grow fruits and vegetables, and their knowledge of fresh food choices, in a half-acre garden that used to be a parking lot.
"I've had families say that they feel healthier, that the parents feel healthier, because this kid has demanded this type of food, and for me, that's what's it's all about," Brashares says.
The school community is noticing a difference. The program at P.S. 7 in East Harlem is expanding to include a rooftop garden.
"How do you create more space? Boom. You have an area that gets hit by sun all day long," says Sameer Talati, principal at P.S. 7 in Harlem. "You have an area that is not used for anything, and what we can do right now is sort of shape this space into a classroom."
For Brashares, planting more seeds of change in the public school system is the next step in growing her organization.
"We're seeing massive change at this school," says Perri Erlitz, lead kitchen teacher at Edible Schoolyard NYC. "So how can we create a program that would possibly reach all New York City public schools students? And that is where Kate has been absolutely integral."
"We really believe that that experiential education, that getting your hands dirty, getting your hands in the dirt, something that's going to stick with kids for the rest of their lives," Brashares says.
So, for enriching classrooms with a fresh curriculum, Kate Brashares is the latest New Yorker of the Week.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more information on Edible Schoolyard NYC, visit their website at esynyc.org.