bringing healthy to students

Do you have any idea how much crap teenagers eat on a daily basis? It's revolting. But it's probably not that big of a surprise since we were all their age at one point. I distinctly remember purchasing, on a daily basis, a Hershey's Cookies 'n Cream chocolate bar. Yes, every day for snack I'd delight in this sugary treat. It never really occurred to me how bad this was - I wasn't thinking in those terms, and neither are my students, at least not until Mark showed up.

For the past two days my students were part of a seminar put on by one Mr. Mark from our local Whole Foods Market. This is what he does. He educates those willing to listen on the benefits of a plant-based, whole foods diet. And not whole foods like the name of the store, but rather food in its original state.

Mark showed up Thursday armed with a wonderful five minute presentation of an eleven year-old discussing why we should all consider paying the farmer and not the hospital. He had handouts on the myths of dairy, the real cost of healthy eating and a startling fun little fact sheet detailing the horrors of soda, or rather, pop as it's known on this side of the country. The kids were engaged, they asked questions - good questions, and listened to what Mark had to say. You could see their over-caffeinated minds start to work and think about what they'd been putting into their mouths. When reality started to settle in, some began to complain about the lack of nutrition and quality of school lunches - and they're right. What's served in the cafeteria on a daily basis is deplorable. Fresh? I don't think so. Processed? Yup. Tons of crap for a really cheap price.

Some students began to pull out their carbonated sugary drinks and read the labels. We all had a few good laughs when those reading got to ingredients they couldn't even pronounce. At that point it was clearly obvious that Mark's point about moving towards natural foods rather than artificial foods was sinking in.

On Friday, Mark once again came prepared to wow the kids, this time with a food show and some good eats. He showed up with his portable single burner, a couple of pans and some very fresh ingredients. He had 'em hooked. They watched intently as he put together what I'm calling the "Dorm Recipe." Prior to Mark showing up I'd asked him to put something together that would be tasty, quick and above all easy to make. He did not disappoint. Into the hot pan went diced red potatoes, red onion, red, yellow and green bell peppers, broccoli, mushrooms, quinoa, garlic, kale, marjoram, oregano, thyme, and a dash of salt and pepper. In ten minutes we whipped up a delicious breakfast option. The kids lined up with their bowls and forks, threw on some hot sauce and got down to tasting.

A few were skeptical, some were willing, most enjoyed it. What resonated most with me were the comments coming from students - the same chuggers of Mountain Dew were saying things like wow, I didn't know eating healthy could taste this good or this isn't so bad or what was the recipe again? I'd like to write it down and try it on my own. Many students left the two-day seminar thinking hard about their health and the food they were eating, and several were committed to eating better. I did speak with one young man who was particularly excited about this revamped way of eating, but at the same time frustrated because of his home environment. When I asked him what his family typically ate, he cited fried rich greasy foods. I asked him about the sides served with meals, suggesting that he serve himself more the sides and he reported that whatever it was, was typically cooked with a heavy dose of cheese or butter. He said he'd not eaten meat in several days (we previously watched the documentary Forks Over Knives) and has tried to make himself a salad with every meal to compensate for what's being served. Several students reported attempting to talk to their parents but quickly got shut down, and that was very sad to hear.

In a thank you email to Mark this morning, I wrote the following:

                         While they may not be able to buy their own food at the moment, I'm certain
                         you've planted a seed that will influence their choices when they gain some
                         independence in a couple of years.

This class is turning out to be more enjoyable than I could have ever imagined. I love that not only do I get to help students prepare for possible training and career paths, getting them to understand that money isn't everything and that doing what you love is worth more in the long run, but I also have the opportunity to help them become more well-rounded individuals. Through the viewing of documentaries, amazing group discussions, and with activities like Mark's seminar, I have no doubt that their sometimes narrow-minded views and one-track minds are now opening to infinite possibilities.

And that, dear readers, is what this job is all about.


Kristina said...

That is so awesome! I know a lot of adults who should participate in a seminar like that!

ilene. said...

Thanks, Kristina. And yes, you're right - many of us "big" students would benefit from something similar. I wish these kinds of seminars were more prevalent.