NEWARK: Students cook up learning at St. Philip's Academy

October 8, 2009

Students donned aprons over their school uniforms and went to work Thursday evening, October 8, in the new teaching kitchen at St. Philip's Academy, an Episcopal school in Newark, New Jersey.

Part of the school's EcoSpaces program, the new facility will provide a place for learning about sustainable food systems and the science involved in nutrition and food preparation.

"I'm glad we have a space for scientific experiments involving food and chemistry. I'm looking forward to that," commented Addae Williams, an eighth grader.

Students worked as sous chefs alongside professionals at the inaugural teaching event, preparing and serving appetizers for their guests.

Sixth grader Shirley Belizaire hopes to learn "how to decorate food" and "how to use the oven properly and safely." Both she and Marcellus Blunt, also a sixth grader, want to learn how to cook new things -- "cakes, muffins, and vegetables like carrots, celery and broccoli" for Belizaire and "vegetables and carrot cake" for Blunt.

Community partners involved in launching the new kitchen included IKEA, which assisted with reduced prices and installation of furnishings, and Edible Jersey, a periodical celebrating local food in the Garden State.

Garden State Urban Farms works with St. Philip's rooftop garden, a source of produce for the new kitchen. Scholastic Culinary Service, a small regional dining services company, shares the goal with St. Philip's of providing fresh food while respecting people and the environment.

"Anyone expecting to lead a healthy and productive life in this country needs to understand the food they put into their bodies," said Miguel Brito, head of school. "The teaching kitchen allows every St. Philip's student to understand the chemistry of food, while developing lifelong skills for preparing food in wholesome and nourishing ways."

Student interest in the new kitchen and the rooftop garden at St. Philip's have sparked their willingness to make more healthful food choices and try unfamiliar things. Parents report students' eagerness to participate in meal preparation, start gardens, and try new foods at home, according to Cathleen Ziegler, director of communication. Parents also report learning from their children more about sustainable food systems and related environmental issues.

St. Philip's Academy is an independent, K-8 school known for its academic excellence. It was founded in 1988 by the dean and members of the congregation at Trinity & St. Philip's Episcopal Cathedral.

Students are drawn from Newark and its environs without regard for their ability to pay tuition. The EcoSPACES program seeks to give inner-city students tools for living 21st century lives that are healthy and sustainable, and uses many features of the Academy's LEED certified building for multi-dimensional learning.

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