Lunchbox August Hero: Kathy Flynn, Teacher and “Organic Foodie!”

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  • August 01, 2011
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TheLunchBox.org staff nominated Kathy Flynn as a LunchBox Hero for August.

Submitted by Kathy Flynn, Instructional Technology Specialist, Oak Bluffs School

In a recent conversation I had about school lunch menus, a friend said, “School Lunch may be the only meal that a child may get in the day. So what does it matter the menu; as long as the meal meets the child’s caloric and government food requirements?” 

Yes, sometimes school lunch may be the only meal our children receive in a day but just that fact makes it critical to ensure that it is one of the healthiest.

At the Oak Bluffs School, a high needs school district on Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, we believe healthy lunches make for healthy kids. Because of this a team of staff from various disciplines is working together to develop integrated educational programs to teach our students about foods that are delicious, fun to make, and health supportive.

At Oak Bluffs, as part of the middle school curriculum, eighth grade students are offered enrichment classes where teachers are provided an opportunity to offer courses outside of their designated disciplines. I am an Instructional Technology Specialist, but I am also an “organic/vegan/raw” foodie. So this was an exciting opportunity for me to share my passion with my students! I developed a series of three, 10-week cooking classes where kids learned about organic foods and created delicious healthier "junk" foods. The cooking class was entitled, “Naturally Sweet” and this year approximately 20 eighth grade students participated in the program.  

The year has been amazing. The program has expanded across the curriculum. The team involved in our “Healthy Lunches Make for Healthy Kids” philosophy includes Art teacher Kim O’Connor, Cafeteria Administrator Leah Miranda, Music teacher Brian Weiland, Science teacher Leah Dorr, Special Education teacher Doreen Marino, and Island Grown Initiative’s Erin Haggerty.

There are three different projects going on at our school that I am particularly proud of and would like to share with you here:

Our School Garden

The Oak Bluffs School grows many of the vegetables that adorn our salad bar thanks to our Science teacher, Leah Dorr. Her students are responsible for planting and maintaining a garden that yields crops of lettuce, peas, radishes, squashes and many types of herbs. 

The Island Grown Initiative of Martha’s Vineyard works in collaboration with island schools to encourage and help promote the utilization of locally grown foods into our school lunch program. Erin Haggerty, who works for the initiative, devotes many hours to teaching our students methods to grow and harvest vegetables in the gardens, and also co-teaches the “Naturally Sweet” cooking classes with me. 

An Evening of Art, Music and Vegan Cuisine

Our program has expanded to include integrated activities with the Art, Music and Special Education teachers. At the culmination of the first 10-week course, the cooking, art and music enrichment students participated in a collaborative event at the Featherstones Center for the Arts in Oak Bluffs. Students’ art prints were showcased, music students serenaded the crowd on their guitars, and the student chefs promenading about in their chef’s coats and hats served vegan/gluten free pastries to 60 delighted guests.

Fill My Bowl

The second event of the year was called "Fill My Bowl."  During this enrichment, students learned how to make ceramic pottery bowls and spoons. We also taught our student chefs how to prepare vegan soups and gluten free breads. The culmination of this enrichment was an evening banquet with meals prepared by student chefs, served in the ceramic bowls created by the pottery class. The menu included miso soup, tempeh chili, kale chips and vegan corn bread. Student poetry readings and musical presentations helped make this a magical evening that was attended by family and staff. Even the Superintendent of Schools had to admit his tempeh chili & tofu corn bread were pretty tasty!

Kids Cooking for Kids

The Oak Bluffs School is fortunate to have a forward thinking and health conscious school cafeteria administrator. Leah Miranda works directly with the Island Grown Initiative and local farms to provide our school with fresh produce. She is always looking for ways to improve our lunch program. 

Leah and I are currently collaborating on the “Kids Cooking for Kids” Program. Two of our “Vegan Chefs” prepared and served tempeh chili and vegan corn bread that was offered as a lunch entrée to staff and students. It was very popular--there were no leftovers. We hope to continue and expand this program in the next school year and offer one student entrée a month in our school cafeteria.

Healthy lunches really do make for healthy kids and poor diet habits do not have socio-economic boundaries. I believe that now is the time to start feeding our kids healthier foods and a revolution is needed. Even a change as small as using olive oil in place of vegetable oil can make a difference. Start asking the questions, let's get the message out - we owe it to our kids! Check out our Oak Bluffs School Wellness Forum for more information on the work we are doing here in Martha’s Vineyard.

Thanks so much to Kathy for telling us about your inspirational work! If you are interested in making changes at your school, be sure to check out all the free tools and recipes offered right here on TheLunchBox.org.

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