Connecting Kids and Real Food

FoodCorps Tess Romanski Cafe 361 Cedar Rapids Iowa

Tess Romanski is a FoodCorps service member hosted through ISU Extension and Outreach in Linn County. FoodCorps is a nationwide team of leaders that connects kids to real food and helps them grow up healthy. FoodCorps service members teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, and work to build and tend school gardens. Tess works in the Cedar Rapids School District and partners with several local organizations to provide after-school programming to under-served students as well as teaching the Pick a Better Snack curriculum.

Pick a Better Snack

Pick a Better Snack is a program established through the Iowa Department of Public Health to promote healthy lifestyles among all Iowans, particularly low-income individuals and families. This program emphasizes good food choices and physical activity, and gives students in the first through third grades at Garfield, Grant, Harrison, Hoover, Johnson, Taylor, Van Buren Elementary and Wright access to tastings of healthy fruits and vegetables.

Some of the past fruits and vegetables Tess has taken in to Cedar Rapids classrooms are: carrots, grapes, pumpkin, cranberries, grapefruit, broccoli, oranges, cucumbers, raisins, celery, grape tomatoes, and pineapple. Every month the students get to explore a new fruit and vegetable in the classroom!

Café 361

Café 361 was started in 2013 by a group of middle school girls who were passionate about cooking and community service. When the Cedar Rapids School district has an early release on Wednesdays, the girls gather in the kitchen of First Congregational Church in Wellington Heights and make a community meal. The café is hosted at the site of the Boys and Girls Club of Cedar Rapids.

The members of Café 361 come from four different middle schools grades 6-8 around the Cedar Rapids area. At Café 361, the girls learn the actual process of meal preparation- cooking, table setting, serving, and cleaning up. But that is not the only thing Café 361 is about. They are learning leadership skills that will last an entire lifetime- confidents, public speaking, conflict resolution, problem solving, and more.

There are still several dinner dates coming up: April 9, April 30, May 7, and May 21. Dinners take place at 5:30pm at 361 17th Street SE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Please email or if you are interested in attending a community dinner.

Wacky Snacks

Wacky Snacks is an after-school program that teaches students in 2nd-4th grade how to make easy, healthy snacks quickly and safely. Class participants get to try new foods and learn more advanced cooking skills, as well as nutrition education. Wacky Snacks has been offered at Harrison and Van Buren Elementary School through Kids on Course, and at Johnson School through the AHA! program.

Garden Club

After-school garden clubs have been established at Harrison Elementary in collaboration with Matthew 25 and at Johnson School in collaboration with the AHA! program and First Congregational Church. Garden club through Jane Boyd will be starting in the spring. Garden clubs allow students to experience the full food loop: growing, harvesting, consuming, and composting their food to regrow more. Garden clubs also allow participants to learn in an outdoor environment from natural teaching tools and engage in healthy activity.

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