In 2022, Nutrition Services was the recipient of a generous grant from Houston Methodist to further fund their efforts to expand agricultural programs at six HISD high schools and integrate nutrition and culinary education into their classwork.
The agriculture programs at Furr, Westside, Washington, North Forest, Lamar, Worthing, and Sharpstown High Schools are diverse, and each program has a different focus of study. For example, Sharpstown focuses on vegetable and fruit tree production in their on-campus gardens, Washington has an enormous hydroponics system with which they grow leafy greens, and North Forest focuses on poultry production.
Houston Methodist awarded this grant with the hope that Nutrition Services could expand the existing programs and inspire students to become active participants in the production of the food they eat. In conjunction with the USDA’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), HISD Chef Brittany Jones and nutritionist Nathan Raska curate their nutrition and culinary education lessons to equip students with a working, practical knowledge that is useful in their everyday lives.
“Our lessons help them make day-to-day eating decisions, and moving forward into young adulthood and independence, whether that be a career or college, having a basic understanding of a well-rounded diet and how to go about achieving one sustainably,” said Raska.
Jones’ lessons also focus on communicable cooking skills that students can use in their daily lives, as well as fun lessons on cooking special foods to fit a theme, like making bubble tea for Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month.
The Nutrition Services staff have noted a positive change in the students they teach thanks to the unique and engaging opportunities that the Houston Methodist grant allowed them to provide. Utilizing on-campus gardens, hydroponics systems, and even eggs from their poultry, the agriculture classes are able to sell the fruits of their labor at farmer’s markets held at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center.
“[The farmer’s markets] give teachers another opportunity to be able to raise funds and show their kids the value of their hard work,” said Marcus Glenn, School Nutrition and Agricultural Sciences Area Manager. “We’re thankful to Houston Methodist for this funding and the Houston ISD Foundation for being a great partner of ours. We wouldn’t have been able to do this without them.”