Making Health Equality a Reality

FoodCorps service members assembling garden beds

Adriana Perez, FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member, for Bronx Health REACH 

Since starting my service year at the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders and The Family School in the Southwest Bronx, I have been focusing on three pathways to create a schoolwide culture of health: rebuilding and expanding the school gardens, exposing students to a variety of fruits and vegetables, and implementing a gardening, cooking and tasting curriculum that inspires and engages each and every student. This past winter, all 17 New York FoodCorps cohort members participated in a day of service in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Using wood donated by Grow NYC, we created eight garden beds in the new community garden at The Family School and the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders.

Both schools will share the garden. This new garden space will also be used as an outdoor classroom, where students can grow food, explore, and relax. The community garden will also provide a source of fresh and delicious fruits and vegetables to families inside and outside of the school.

Throughout the school year, I have held 10 schoolwide cafeteria taste tests, including two taste tests hosted by George Edwards from the NYC Department of Education Office of Food and Nutrition Services. The taste tests have given every student in the school a chance to be exposed to a variety of food. Foods we have tried include roasted acorn squash, pomegranate seeds, roasted parsnips and herbed potatoes, plant-part stir fry, rainbow carrots, and farro.

Each month, students voted that they “tried it,” “liked it,” or “loved it,” creating, in some instances, fierce debate amongst students on whether or not the food receiving the “loved it” vote was truly worthy. (Spoiler: it usually was).