Who’s Feeding Our Kids: Adventures in Food Education

By: Amanda Brezzell 

On the road that leads from the farm to the tray, we encounter many folks along the way who contribute to feeding our kids. Who’s Feeding Our Kids is a series where we explore different people and organizations along the food system who are working to feed our kids, and support the 10 Cents a Meal Program. These are some of their stories.

This story features FoodCorps Food Education Service Members Cassidy Hough and Crystal Schober, and explores their adventures in educating our youngest eaters about their food and where it comes from.

Photo by Sarah Rypma

Who Made The Eggs?

“Are you the one who was cooking eggs with fourth graders last week?” is the question FoodCorps Service Member Cassidy Hough was asked one morning in the teachers’ lounge. Fighting through a bit of embarrassment as she remembered the events from the cooking lesson, Cassidy replied “yes” with an added apology.

For the last three months, Cassidy has been serving in the role of Food Education Service Member with Alanson Public Schools through FoodCorps. In this role, she has had the opportunity to go into classes, mostly K-6th grade, and teach hands-on lessons about food, agriculture, and nutrition. In the warm months, she takes kids into the garden where they plant and eat the crops they tend. For her, this involves a lot of cooking and eating with students in the classroom. “My personal goal is to broaden children’s palettes and lessen fear of foods,” says Cassidy. With this in mind, she has taken the traditional classroom taste tests to the next level by hosting cooking sessions with the students.

Early in the school year, the fourth grade teacher at Cassidy’s site school asked if she could teach her students to cook. The teacher explained that many of the students aren’t fed dinner when they get home, and she wanted to supply them with the skills to prepare meals safely for themselves. With excitement, Cassidy agreed, and the Friday Cooking Challenge was born.

One Friday a month, Cassidy teaches the students how to cook a beginner dish of their choosing. The lessons typically include a presentation with instructions for how to prepare the dish, then the kids are split into six teams, and compete to create the best variation of the dish. Provided with a wide variety of ingredients, students can customize their dish however they like. At the end, teams are judged and can win “best dish” and the “best restaurant,” referring to the team that worked together the best in the process.

During the first lesson, the students made quesadillas, and for the second lesson, they requested to learn how to make eggs— Cassidy taught them six different ways!

“Anytime you have 16 nine and ten year olds operating stoves by themselves, it’s a little hectic, and the fact that we blew a circuit halfway through certainly didn’t help,” said Cassidy. After thinking fast, she was able to transfer some of the students to an additional classroom, restore the power, and finish the lesson, but students were late to their music class. In doing reflection after the lesson, Cassidy wondered if maybe she was being too ambitious, and if anything she was doing with the students was even sinking in. However, those doubts disappeared after a surprising comment from the school’s music teacher in the teacher’s lounge the following week. “I just wanted you to know that they all had so much fun in that lesson that we spent the first 10 minutes of class talking about it. They were all saying that they can’t wait to go home and cook for their families,” she said.

“Since then, I’ve received lots of similar feedback from kids and teachers, and other classes have requested that I cook with them too”, says Cassidy, “I’m now working to secure more funding so that I can do that.”.

Not only are the students learning about food with Cassidy, but in the cafeteria too. Alanson Community Schools partners with 10 Cents a Meal grantee, Pellston Public Schools to provide meals with locally sourced food in them.

The Impact of Food Education

Roughly 90 miles away, students attending Alcona Elementary School are voting to change their school menu so they can incorporate food grown from their school garden. Food Education Service Member Crystal Schober is also in her first year serving with FoodCorps, and works with the students at Alcona Elementary. Much like Cassidy, her role includes hosting taste tests and cooking lessons, planning and hosting family engagement events around cooking and gardening, and building relationships with the students and educators. Alcona Community Schools participates in 10 Cents a Meal program, and the food education Crystal provides works to support the food education and marketing goals of the program.

This school year, Crystal was able to foster collaboration between the school cafeteria and the garden club. “We used the harvest from the school garden to showcase a lunch meal,” said Crystal. In this instance, the students tried stuffed cabbage, made using the cabbage and tomatoes from the school garden. “The students were able to see the product picked fresh from the garden and turned into a fully cooked meal on the school lunch plate.”

Photo by Sarah Rypma

Afterwards, the students got to vote on the dish and decide if the meal would be a permanent item on the school lunch menu, amplifying their voices and providing them with a sense of autonomy regarding their plates. “They truly enjoyed knowing the food was from the school's garden and experienced a true farm to table meal. I also incorporate the harvests from the school garden into taste tests.”

One reason Crystal made the decision to serve with FoodCorps this school year was the opportunity to interact with students in her community in the garden while teaching them valuable skills. In doing this, she has been able to create lessons that can be intertwined with science, mathematics, and language arts using food to create a hands-on experience. Crystal explained that the value in this work lies in students getting to understand where their food comes from and the labor it takes to grow the food. “They are also learning about photosynthesis, math, teamwork, and more, and this work brings all of the students and educators together.”

Across the nation, FoodCorps currently serves nearly 200 schools and districts in 16 states and the District of Columbia. In the state of Michigan, FoodCorps serves in four different regions. This includes schools and sites located in urban spaces like Detroit and Flint, and rural spaces like Northeastern and Northwestern Lower Michigan. According to FoodCorps, their goal by 2030 “is for every child to have access to food education and nourishing food in school.” Through three key strategies –direct service, broad reach, and policy and advocacy– FoodCorps affects change in the realm of hands-on food education, nourishing school meals, and advancing equity through food. Their work also supports other farm to school efforts schools may participate in by providing additional support for programs like 10 Cents a Meal.

According to the School Nutrition Association, nearly one in five children in America live in households without consistent access to adequate food. Recent data from the USDA Economic Research Service revealed that Michigan's rate for food insecurity now sits at 11.9%, which is above that national rate. With children receiving up to two meals a day from school, this opens up the door for real conversations linking education and food. This kind of education provides the next generation with the tools necessary for them to make informed decisions about food, where it comes from, and how it is distributed, impacting the rest of their lives.

Food education plays a major role in the education of the whole child. As we work toward a more sustainable future, healthy relationships with food and the Earth are being cultivated. This opens the door for young eaters to explore the world around them, equipped with the tools necessary to maintain a sustainable lifestyle and connect with the community.

Learn More

To learn more about FoodCorps, please visit their website here. For more success stories, visit tencentsmichigan.org.

Please Note: FoodCorps is a non-partisan, non-profit organization. FoodCorps staff and FoodCorps AmeriCorps members may not participate in advocacy or lobbying activities during work time charged to an AmeriCorps funded grant or while earning AmeriCorps service hours. No federal funds were used to prepare or distribute advocacy content.


10 Cents a Meal Policy and Engagement Specialist Amanda Brezzell writes from their hometown of Detroit, Michigan, where they support the 10 Cents a Meal Program through Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities, outreach and communications partner on the 10 Cents a Meal implementation team.

Take Action

As the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms Program expands, feedback and data collected from grantees continues to shape the implementation of the program. Adding Michigan-grown fruits, vegetables, and dry beans to menus for children looks different in every district across the state and the implementation team has been paying attention to the details that make the program and other food service programs work. Through data, they have been able to connect with the people and systems along the road that contribute to moving farm fresh food to the table. 

Since the program’s beginning in 2016, the 10 Cents a Meal for Michigan’s Kids and Farms program has grown and produced quite an impact on Michigan's children and agricultural economy. As the program expands, it is important that the language in the state budget addresses the needs of all those that come together to feed our children and grow our food. To learn about more ways to support the program please visit us HERE. 

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