Every year, Cottonwood Institute CAP students explore environmental challenges and tackle issues of local importance in student-directed “Action Projects.” It’s one of the best parts of the program because it’s up to the students to decide. At STRIVE Prep – Westwood, CAP students Mauricio, Yadira, Armando, Adrian, Sara and Elizabeth spent the month of March exploring issues facing their urban neighborhood, including air pollution from cars and trucks, water pollution from trash and road runoff, and lack of access to healthy, affordable food. They found out that their neighborhood was in what’s called a “food desert” and they decided to learn more about what they could do to bring healthy snacks to their classmates.As part of their exploration, in early April the students visited Re:Vision – a local organization whose mission is to “cultivate thriving, resilient communities by developing local leaders, growing community food systems, and building a locally-owned economy.”
The students met with Antonio Soto, Re:Vision’s Office Manager, to hear first-hand about what the organization is doing to improve food access, and to ask some of their own questions. Some of these students were already familiar with Re:Vision as they had helped plant fruit trees in Re:Vision’s urban farm plot in 2016 as part of that year’s Action Project. This year, they visited their trees, learned about Promotoras and the Backyard Gardens program, and also had a chance to tour the greenhouse. The students were impressed with the fact that Re:Vision’s Promotoras had helped get over 600 gardens planted (!), but what could they do to help?
After brainstorming and debating ideas and even voting, the group settled on a project. They agreed that having access to healthy, affordable food was important, BUT what if you didn’t know what healthy food was in the first place? They decided that they needed to help their fellow classmates learn about healthy eating by introducing them to healthy snacks – i.e., snacks that use fresh ingredients like fruit and cheese; snacks are low in added sugar and fat, and high in protein; snacks that don’t have many additives. They started reading nutrition labels on products, researched recipes for simple healthy snacks, and put together a brochure (Guide to Healthy Eating – check it out!) to give to their fellow students along with sample snacks of “Apple & Grape Cars”, “Fish in the River” Sticks and Frozen Orange Pops. They figured what better way to catch their fellow classmate’s attention than through their stomachs!
On May 16, during the school’s morning meeting, these wise STRIVE Prep – Westwood CAP students presented their project to their fellow classmates. They explained why it’s important to eat healthy food, and told them about getting fresh food through Re:Vision. They distributed the brochures and snacks, and invited their friends to taste and enjoy healthy eating. And had fun in the process!
Word in the school hallways the next day? The students really liked the “Apple Cars!” Who knew fruit could taste so good, and be so good for you?!?
Check out more photos here!
Written by CAP class instructor Liz Goehring