How One Teacher Is Changing the Way Her Students Eat

February 25, 2016

“I don’t really have much of a social life right now,” Kara says with a laugh. It’d be an understatement to say she’s busy: After a long day of teaching a room packed with energetic 6- and 7-year old first graders, the full-time graduate student at the University of Washington heads home to do her own homework.

As a teacher and a student, she qualified for a Thrive Gives membership. Here’s how she puts it to good use:

“I found Thrive Market because I was looking for [a] less expensive alternative to Whole Foods. I have a ton of food allergies, and there’s a lot of food on the site that’s great for my wheat and dairy issues.

A lot of the kids in my classroom have allergies, too. Many of them can’t eat nuts or dairy, which means that processed foods are off the table. So I have to make them treats if I want to bring food in. I bake cookies with gluten-free flour so all the kids can eat them, and I made homemade Larabars a few weeks ago. Their minds were blown that there was no added sugar in them, just fruit! We try to teach [the students] as many principles of nutrition as we can and expose them to natural foods—so they know that sugar isn’t good for you and it gives you cavities, and that they should try to eat a fruit and a vegetable every day.

Our school serves a low-income population, and last year we had over 90 percent of our kids on the National School Lunch program, which means they get free and reduced-price meals for breakfast and lunch. This year, the entire school transitioned to the program, so most of the kids eat breakfast and lunch at school. Unfortunately, for 20 to 30 percent of them, that’s all they’ll get to eat that day.

Either their parents aren’t home to cook for them or they just don’t have the resources to make dinner nightly.

And if their families do eat an evening meal, sometimes they’re restricted to what their parents can get at the discount grocery store.

But the food they get at school is pretty gross, honestly. It’s gotten better in the past year, because we had an influx of students from Eastern Africa immigrate here and they wouldn’t eat any of the ‘American’ food. They weren’t used to it, so they stopped eating. But the administrators noticed, and now there’s goulash, noodle soup, and grilled fish like they’re used to, but it’s still interspersed with less healthy lunchroom classics like chicken nuggets and microwaved pizza. Because we launched a new nutrition program this year, they get served at least one fruit and one veggie per day, and sometimes they get ones they’ve never seen before—like purple carrots. They’re pretty adventurous and they usually try at least one bite … That doesn’t mean they always like it, but most do!

I keep applesauce, crackers, and other snacks in my classroom in case a child comes in late and missed free breakfast. So many of the teachers pay out-of-pocket for snacks and classroom essentials. But there’s a huge difference in the kids when they don’t get anything to eat. When they’re hungry, they can’t focus—especially the little boys. They just go off the wall, their energy is all over the place. I had one kid come into class, and he had a total meltdown within 10 minutes. As soon as he had something to eat, he was fine and his mood totally changed.

Shopping at Thrive Market means that I can get healthy, organic groceries delivered directly to my house—with my full work and school load, that means a lot. And it’s affordable, which always helps! I love Thrive [Market], and I love that I can provide my students with healthy snacks to help them get through their days.”

As told to Michelle Pellizzon

We believe that everyone deserves the right to access healthy food. But even in the United States, it can prove impossible for some families. So we created Thrive Gives: a program that gives access, family by family, to affordable, healthy, and wholesome food. Click here to see if you qualify for a free Thrive Gives membership!

This article is related to:

Food Charities, Living, Thrive Gives

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Michelle Pellizzon

Certified health coach and endorphin enthusiast, Michelle is an expert in healthy living and eating. When she's not writing you can find her running trails, reading about nutrition, and eating lots of guacamole.

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