Made from Scratch at Newark School

Made From Scratch At Newark School

Mon 16 Jul 2012

Story by Royce Berler

A great homemade ketchup recipe is one of the many things St. Philip’s Academy in Newark, NJ brings to the table. When we couldn’t find ketchup free of high fructose corn syrup, we decided to make our own.

This is how it often goes at St. Philip’s, a K-8 school dedicated to serving an underserved population, that is the home to the EcoSPACES Program, an initiative created to confront the problems of unhealthy kids and an unhealthy planet. EcoSPACES is a comprehensive program that teaches concepts of wellness and sustainability through a variety of learning environments. A 4,600 square foot rooftop garden, teaching kitchen, urban farming lab, outdoor turf, EcoArt studio and a Dining Room are available for teachers to get students out from behind their desks and learn grade level curriculum while reinforcing health and environmental best practices. The program is a hands-on approach that gets kids excited to learn, helps them retain new information, and allows for students who have a variety of learning styles to be engaged - surely a win-win for students, teachers and parents.

Acquiring The Knowledge And Power To Make Healthy Choices

When children actively participate in the planting of seeds, nurturing them to harvest, cooking and tasting food, sitting with friends and community, sharing food and composting food scraps, they not only become stewards of the earth, but they also acquire the knowledge and power to make healthy decisions into adulthood and beyond. This is our ultimate goal.

The dining room is the foundation of the program. It’s here that daily lunches (made from scratch and served family style) demonstrate the groundwork of a comprehensive understanding of the closed food loop cycle - the core of this initiative. It is why we consider our dining room one of our key learning environments. There is more education going on here than one might imagine. It is here that 100% of our students take part in our Healthy Lunch Initiative. Guided by our food values and ingredient standards, our Kitchen staff creates meals daily in an open kitchen allowing students to watch their meal being prepared. This becomes part of the experience. It allows our staff to nurture relationships with students by establishing a forum for a two-way dialogue about food - encouraging them to try new things, to take a stroll to the salad bar, and even talk about preparation.

An additional feature of our dining program is that we serve our meals family style. Family style meals have had such a larger impact than any of us ever anticipated. It has been culture changing. Every day, students enjoy a hot entree, sides, soup, sandwiches, a large salad bar with fresh vegetables, proteins, grains and beans, composed salads and homemade dressings. To make the family style meals work, we chose to use round tables. This, we believe, is one of the best choices we could have made when creating the dining room. We suggest that all school dining rooms use round tables, which have a leveling effect, as there are no corners in a circle. This allows each student to feel truly a part of the community. The tables are all composed of students from varying grade levels, who have responsibilities from setting the table to serving and cleaning up after lunch.

Strengthening community is one of the greatest dividends of a meal at St. Philip’s; it is one of our priorities. We believe in the power of the table.

For more information on EcoSPACES and St. Philip’s Academy visit our website and follow us on Facebook and twitter: @StPhilipsAcadem

About St. Phillips Academy: St. Philip’s Academy is a co-educational independent school based in Newark, New Jersey, which provides a first class education to aspiring K-8th grade students, regardless of their ability to pay tuition. Financial aid is provided to 100% of students. To support this incredible mission, more than $4 million is raised through gifts, grants and corporate sponsorships.

About the author: I live in New York City, and am a Real Estate Agent. I was introduced to St. Philip's through my brother Mark who lives in Birmingham Alabama and once introduced became hooked. The staff, the students, the programs are all an inspiration and I believe that this school should be a platform across our nation and I have committed to getting involved and spreading the word. It is truly remarkable what people can do when they get together and commit. I have yet to meet anyone who has been introduced to the school that did not get involved, truly amazing!


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