Food Adventurers

New cooking school will teach kids healthy habits

By Tessa Marguerite Outland
November 2019

Getting kids to eat their veggies is a struggle in many homes. It has become such a persistent issue that some of this generation’s adolescents, often due to lack of resources or inaccessibility, do not recognize produce like pears or broccoli—even right here in Sacramento.

But what would happen if kids could experience hands-on learning in school about a variety of fruits and vegetables, and taste fresh, unpackaged, unprocessed meals? Beginning next fall, the students at Leataata Floyd Elementary School will find out.

The Food Literacy Center, a Sacramento nonprofit, is partnering with several local organizations to begin a first-of-its-kind project to teach Sacramento students and families how to cook healthy meals. The official groundbreaking for a new cooking school at Floyd Farms, a 2.5-acre lot adjacent to Leataata Floyd Elementary, took place in September.

Amber Stott founded the Food Literacy Center in 2011 in an effort to change the way kids look at healthy food. The small nonprofit delivers cooking and nutrition classes to students and schools for free, but until now it lacked an adequate facility.

“This (new facility) opens the possibility to reach so many more children,” Stott says. The cooking school will offer free classes to students at Leataata Floyd Elementary, integrated with math, science and more.

The innovative project is in partnership with the Sacramento City Unified School District, city of Sacramento, The Mill at Broadway and HMC Architects. “We’re so excited to partner with the Food Literacy Center, helping Amber Stott and her team build a cooking school with student-run gardens,” says Katherine Bardis, co-founder and president of Bardis Homes, builder of The Mill at Broadway.

The Food Literacy Center cooking school will serve the 330 elementary school students enrolled at Leataata Floyd Elementary and their families. Other students throughout the Sacramento City Unified School District and community members will be invited to tour the cooking school on field trips and discover how to make fresh, colorful meals at home.

Stott says each meal will focus on a fruit or vegetable with the goal of encouraging kindergarten through 6th-grade students to be “food adventurers” and try new things. Their first recipe will be a peanut-butter sandwich—something all kids are familiar with—but it will swap out jelly for fresh fruit slices. The next meal might be pho using ramen noodles, but substituting the salty packet for fresh spices and herbs. All meals will be budget-friendly and fresh.

Jorge Aguilar, superintendent of Sacramento City Unified School District, says this health-focused project has been in development since 2012. At the groundbreaking, Aguilar beamed with pride. “Today, we’re thrilled to break ground on the zero net energy building, designed with the latest energy-efficiency technologies and enough solar energy to offset the building’s annual energy use.” The 10,000-square-foot building will be a green operation with energy produced from solar panels.

The new facility will include a prep kitchen and training space, and support community programs. Floyd Farms also will be home to a city-run community garden. “This innovative model will increase children’s access to food literacy programs, which will build healthy eating habits that will benefit our students for years to come,” says state Assemblymember Kevin McCarty.

The Food Literacy Center receives multi-year support from Clover Sonoma, The Mill at Broadway, Setzer Foundation, Sun & Soil Juice Company and Selland Family Restaurants. “Food literacy is perhaps the most important piece of education in our time,” says Marcus Benedetti, CEO of Clover Sonoma. “In a world increasingly filled with processed food options, we are excited to help bring to life a campus that can help children understand how their food is grown, why it’s important to consume fresh foods and what nutrients they need to live a healthy life.”

The cooking school and student gardens will be managed by the Food Literacy Center’s small staff. While the project receives additional support from local donors and grants, it is dependent on a continued partnership with the Sacramento community.

Stott’s visible passion for the overall health and nutrition of the next generation will undoubtedly fuel the students’ excitement to become food adventurers. “This really is a dream project,” Stott says with a grin.

Tessa Marguerite Outland can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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