Westside Story of School Food Change

Westside Story Of School Food Change

Fri 13 May 2011

Story by Emily Ventura

Los Angeles Teacher Shares His Vision for the Food Revolution at School Open House

Los Angeles teacher Thomas Bangert has an inspired vision for his school, a vision that students can “Grow+Prepare+Share” their food, and last week he showcased this idea at his school’s open house.

The event included a dedication of a new school garden, a provocative presentation by Thomas on the current state of school food, and a viewing party for students and their parents of Episode 1 of Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. Around 100 students and parents gathered in the multi-purpose room of the school, the Westside Global Awareness K-8 Magnet, to have dinner provided by Chipotle and to participate in the viewing party, complete with discussion of next steps for change.

Thomas has worked for 13 years as a teacher in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and for 6 years as a LAUSD athletic coach. He holds an MS in administration from Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Education & Psychology and is a certified Master Gardener. Thomas’ vision is to develop his Grow+Prepare+Share program into a K-5 curriculum resource that encourages the study of food systems, specifically focused on sustaining the environment, growing, cooking and sharing.

The mission of Grow+Prepare+Share is to change the status quo through hands-on grassroots education. Children will be guided through lessons that focus on the relationships between foods that grow on the farm or in the garden. Each lesson will finish with recipes for a garden/farmers market meal for the students to prepare and share.

In January of this year, Thomas joined the broad coalition of community leaders that has been working along with the Jamie Oliver Food Foundation to create real, sustained change in Los Angeles, starting with the school district. As Thomas explains “Jamie Oliver is a wonderful resource for me to be able to point parents and teachers toward. He is a wonderful advocate for children and their reconnection with food.”

It’s clear that Thomas’ vision is both shared and contagious. As part of his involvement with the LA Food Revolution coalition, Thomas invited his students to write letters to the LAUSD’s new superintendent, John Deasy, and to the Board of Education, to express their opinions about their school food. By the night of the open house and viewing party, Thomas already had 80 letters collected. Ryan Westfield, a 7th grade student says:

“I know our district is the second largest in the U.S. and we should set the standard. I know this will cost money, but why not pay more for better health? If we are the future, why make us the fat, unhealthy people of tomorrow?”

Students are ready for change, and along with their parents, are ready for action. The school plans to use their new garden as a first step in teaching children about fresh food and encouraging them to lobby for fresher food in the cafeteria.

Hats off to Thomas and the school community of Westside Global Awareness Magnet K-8.

About the author: Emily Ventura PhD. is a researcher at the USC Childhood Obesity Research Center (CORC) in Los Angeles.

Westside Global Awareness K-8 Magnet



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