Kellie Karavias, Houston Independent School DistrictWed 28 Aug 2013
Story by Kellie Karavias
Rodriguez Elementary is where Kellie Karavias found her roots. She was an art educator and along with a concerned Fine Arts team and school administer, saw a growing epidemic that touched the very heart of the school.
Students were coming in at pre-k kinder at healthy weights and rolling out by the 5th grade at staggering weights. Something had to be done. Kellie and her team set up a school wide Body Mass Index (BMI) study to measure each child. The results seemed insurmountable. Rodriguez students came in 10% higher than the entire District’s rating, placing the school as 40% obese.
Kellie met with Texas Children’s Hospital childhood obesity experts, garnered outside partnerships, set up a culinary arts after-school program which later sparked the creation of a Culinary Arts ancillary classroom, installed the largest school garden in Houston, helped create a culture of health and wellness and brought in parent cooking classes. This was all supported with various school garden grants and community partnerships, and paved the way for Kellie to present Rodriguez’s sweeping change at The Healthy Schools, Healthy Kids Summit for Houston Independent School District.
Due to her successes, Kellie was asked to expand her vision at Tinsley Elementary. In the first year, she brought nationally-acclaimed Chef Ann Cooper with HISD Food Services and Whole Foods market for a pubic forum on a “School Lunch Revolution” to feed our kids better. Kellie also won a $45,000 Urban Harvest Youth garden grant for three years, installed an organic 10- bed teaching garden just 10 steps from the Kitchen Food Science Lab and worked Culinary Arts and Gardening into the Fine Arts schedule so all 800 students attending Tinsley were afforded hands-on experiential learning throughout the school year. Kellie has been showcased on the Cooking Channel’s “From the Kitchens of…Hidden Valley Ranch” for her groundbreaking Culinary Arts/Gardening Program. This program served as a national model in the “Love Your Veggies” Program sponsored by Hidden Valley Ranch from which she received an additional $20,000 to continue her work.
Kellie’s desire to expand her work led her to Gregory-Lincoln Education Center, a prek-8th grade school located in the historic heart of downtown Houston. Gregory-Lincoln is on the cusp of becoming a model school integrating gardening and the Culinary Arts. Under her tutelage, she is determined to create access to organic-grown produce without the hefty price tag afforded to the low-socio economically disadvantaged school population. Such efforts are supported through innovative partnerships and collaborations.
Some of the creative programming includes:
• Whole Kids Farmers Markets, where students produce, sell, and market their garden-grown produce to the public;
• “Cook with your Kid Nights,” where families come together to learn how to cook;
• The Houston Food Bank mobile produce unit, where Gregory Lincoln will serve as a hub to provide FRESH produce the school and surrounding community;
• Secret Chefs, where we bring the professional culinary community into the classroom; and
• A campus/community-wide celebration on Food Day.
Kellie was celebrated as a “School Food Super Hero” in The Lunch Tray, a recognized blog on school lunch reform. She was recently honored to serve on an inquiry committee to promote programs like hers to every school with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation (USA).
As a new school year gets “growing,” you can naturally find Kellie Karavias with a raised fork, pitched or pronged, to promote edible education in EVERY school, and digging every moment of it.
It is Kellie's passion to make edible education academic, accessible, and achievable to all children during the school day. Her work has garnered attention from noted chefs (Alice Waters, Anne Burrell, and the Renegade Chef Ann Cooper) who have stopped by the culinary classroom as well as from ABC News Now and The Cooking Channel. You can follow her appetizing adventures at her current prek-8th grade school, Gregory-Lincoln Education Center: www.pitchforksplatesandpencils.com!
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