Gard Elementary, IL, CATCH On To Serving Only White MilkWed 27 Apr 2011
Story by Theresa Roscetti
My name is Theresa Roscetti, K-5 Music and Art teacher at Gard Elementary School in Beardstown, Illinois. Beardstown is a rural community of approx 500 K-5 students with a high population of Hispanic students and over 60% of our students receiving free/reduced breakfast and lunch.
After seeing Food Revolution last year, I thought “we need this”. I was naïve enough to think “everyone at our school will immediately see the importance of such a change and jump right in to making healthy changes the next day”. Much to my surprise, not everyone agreed with the Food Revolution, not only can change be seen as difficult/ threatening, but many didn’t want to put forth the effort and some honestly didn’t see the need. However, thanks to the support and help of a core group of teachers, the revolution began.
First, our CATCH program (Coordinated Approach To Children’s Health) had new life breathed into it, under the leadership of our Physical Education teachers; CATCH started the process of implementing that only white milk be served in our elementary school starting Fall 2011. A greater emphasis has also been placed on replacing classroom treats of cupcakes and sugar filled candy with apples, trail mix and more natural snacks.
Fantastically, the teachers responded by donating over 200 apples and the CATCH committee put together 150 bags of trail mix for treats after class music programs in lieu of cupcakes and cookies.
In addition to CATCH, I took on the challenge of getting the old greenhouse up and running again. Having no previous experience of having a greenhouse, I carried out some research and found that we were sitting on an expensive piece of equipment that was being wasted as storage and with the support of a core group of teachers, I forged ahead.
As the space was being used as storage I did face some opposition and therefore many weekends were spent cleaning, organizing and sorting items to be thrown away and those that needed to find new homes. I also applied for a grant from our Regional Office of Education which was really the turning point. Bottom line- if the school didn’t have to fund it, then knock yourself out.
In the meantime, I joined forces with another group, the Beardstown Community Garden committee. We were able to convince the school board for a one year trial of a “student garden” in back of the greenhouse. In March, I planted the first seeds for my own garden as well as the student garden.
From there, I have done research on garden lesson plans, hosted a Greenhouse Open House, encouraged, begged, nagged and literally taken teachers/classes down to the greenhouse to plant seeds. As of today (mid-April) we have sprouts for over 18 different varieties of vegetables and herbs. The students have been coming in and are now starting to see the results of their seeds. It is quite exciting for everyone.
I will admit the revolution hasn’t been easy. In fact, there are times when it is still an uphill battle; changing perceptions, ways of life and eating habits are a lot more challenging than one would think. Like Spring weather however, the revolution has had its share of surprises and set backs, but in the end, if patient, a new, healthy life will prevail.
About the author: Theresa Roscetti is the K-5 Music and Art teacher and Food Revolutionary at Gard Elementary School in Beardstown, Illinois.
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