School gets grant to expand relationship with local farmers

At DeLaSalle Charter High School, 3740 Forest, Chef Brian McAree says the students are “slowly starting to eat their vegetables.” Recently, he says, they even asked for more asparagus. Fresh, and local, vegetables are just one step the school has taken to promote healthy lifestyles. A federal grant will help the school, which serves low income and underserved minority students, expand its programs.

At 37th and Troost, a part of town dubbed by some as a “food desert,” young people are eating fresh fruits and vegetables – and even starting to like them.

At DeLaSalle Charter High School, an emphasis on good nutrition and exercise called Healthy Lifestyles started in 2006. It includes incorporating food and nutrition in every classroom, daily and in special healthy lifestyles days four times a year. That means each class focuses on some aspect of food, such as weighing produce, reading labels, or how foods promote an athletic body.

It’s also meant making minimal use of processed foods in the cafeteria, and sometimes even using food from the school’s community garden as raw materials for lunch.

According to the school’s chef, Brian McAree, that’s been “scary different” for the kids. But slowly and surely, it’s starting to make a difference.

One day last week, McAree was steaming fresh broccoli and straining whole-wheat pasta to make macaroni and cheese. He’d put out a big bowl of apples and oranges.

DeLaSalle announced last week it’s getting some additional help.

The school has received a $25,000 grant from the first-time round of Farm to School federal grants, allowing it to plan for an even more effective Healthy Lifestyles program. The school’s development director, Vanessa Van Goethem-Piela, says the funding will allow DeLaSalle to lay the groundwork for a local supply chain. That means, she says, the school can hire someone to provide caloric information about its menus. Another big push will be developing relationships with local farmers to bring in fresh produce.

“It’s really exciting to get a chance to connect with local farmers,” Chef McAree says. “It just makes sense to get vegetables from the area where you live.”

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