By Carlie Mzik, Community HealthCorps® Member, Georgia Mountains Health Services
To celebrate March as National Nutrition Month, we’re highlighting the Georgia Mountains Health Services Community HealthCorps team and their amazing AmeriCorps Week service promoting healthy eating at their local high school, Fannin County High School.
At our local high school, Mrs. Burch encourages her Family and Consumer Sciences students to try new things and practice industry-standards in her classroom kitchens. Her 4th period class includes a group of students with “severe and profound” developmental disabilities who need extra help in the kitchen, but with a class full of hot stoves and teenagers, she can’t be everywhere at once. So when Mrs. Burch asked our Community HealthCorps team to help them during AmeriCorps Week, we decided to get things done.
On Monday, Mrs. Burch announced the theme to the class: Ethnic Foods. The three students in our group were very excited about creating an authentic Italian meal. After talking about traditional Italian foods, we settled on sausage-pepper pasta and caprese salad with a tasty Nutella dessert. Our meal had all the main food groups: grain (pasta); vegetables (tomatoes, onions, and peppers); protein (sausage and cheese); and healthy fat (olive oil). We also discussed different ways to modify the meal based on preferences and resource/dietary restrictions (How could we make this vegetarian? What if we made this for someone who is allergic to wheat? What if we didn’t have a colander?).
After thinking about how much the ingredients would cost and how we could make the same dishes more or less expensive, we made a grocery list, with each student choosing an ingredient to contribute.
Secondo: Ready, Set, Cook!
On Friday afternoon, with fresh veggies in hand and apron strings tied, we got to work. Brandon was master of the skillet, browning the sausage, while Hailey set the water to boiling and Hannah carefully rinsed, sliced, and diced our vegetables. Everyone got a turn tasting the soft, delicious mozzarella and smelling the fresh basil and garlic. While we arranged the beautiful white, red, and green salad, we noticed its resemblance to the colors of the Italian flag. We couldn’t be more excited to eat this variety of colorful foods that looked as good as they were sure to taste.
Our afternoon was a huge success, made apparent by the students’ joy and pride for making such a delicious meal. The project allowed us to serve young adults in multiple ways—it was fun, inclusive, and combined practical independent living skills with nutrition information while building the students’ confidence and helping them express their interests.
AmeriCorps Week is over, but you can explore nutritious new foods any time. For now, check out our simple caprese salad recipe:
2 ripe tomatoes
8 oz. fresh mozzarella
8 fresh basil leaves
pinch of salt
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella, then layer in a circular pattern on a plate. Scatter the basil, drizzle the oil, sprinkle the salt, and dig in!