School Nabs Healthy Eating Grant

ST. MARYS — A local school’s culinary program recently received a grant to help “green” their classroom.

Michelle Langmeyer, the Culinary Arts and Nutrition, instructor at St. Marys Memorial High School, recently received a grant from the Dayton region McDonald’s restaurants to promote healthy eating. Langmeyer’s goal is to help her students see how food begins before it hits their plates or their refrigerators.

“They had a grant for K-eight that teachers could submit proposals for,” Langmeyer said. “Some of the things I wanted to do with the kids is to push on healthy lifestyles and going green and to show the kids the process from seeds to plate.”

She noted the students will be involved in the process through her classes.

“Studies have shown that if they grow it and then eat it — if they’re more involved in the food process — they’re going to be willing to try some new foods,” she said.

The program, she added, would utilize the school’s new greenhouse.

“We would be taking healthy eating and applying it to food preparation,” Langmeyer said. “I’m amazed at how many kids around here don’t know how long it takes or even the process.”

The grant funds, she said, would be used to purchase containers and seeds and other elements used to grow the seeds.

“All of our stuff will have to be out by March so the FFA can grow their flowers for their fundraiser,” Langmeyer said of the timeline for the program. “We’ll have to grow short-growing plants.”

She said some of the plants the students will grow will be bell peppers, tomatoes, herbs, onions, corn, beans and peas.

“We’ll get some of those seedling starter kits, too, which will make them easier to transport,” Langmeyer said, adding the greenhouse is temperature controlled, which will help in the growing process. “We’ll have a big variety of plants. Mr. McBride is going to help, and some of his students will overlap between VoAg and culinary arts.”

Because Langmeyer’s grant is for grades kindergarten through eighth, the St. Marys Middle School students will be heavily involved in the program.

“We’ll take the sixth and seventh-graders to plant our seeds,” she said. “They’ll regularly go down to water them and to check on them and watch them grow.”

From there, Langmeyer said, the lesson will continue in her classroom.

“Then, we’ll pick out recipes that include the plants that we’re growing,” she said.

The older students in Langmeyer’s new course — international culinary arts — will also be utilizing the produce, she added.

“They’ll be working with the other kids,” she said. “They’ll help demonstrate how to plant them and how to care for the plants.”

Langmeyer has already started growing herbs, but the majority of the program will begin this month when the school enters its second semester.

“By getting this grant, it’s been a big help so we can encourage healthy eating,” she said. “It’s shown you can reduce obesity with fruit and veggie consumption.”

Langmeyer noted she was surprised at how little some of her students know about where their food comes from.

“Even though we’re from a rural area, the number of kids in school who have farming or who grow a garden is limited,” she said. “It’s amazing the small percentage of the kids in school who know where their food comes from.”

The program, Langmeyer said, should help the students in their future.

“My ultimate goal is they eat healthier and have a better appreciation for farmers, gardeners and the earth and they don’t take it for granted, without just thinking it just arrives at the grocery store,” she said, also noting the school’s greenhouse. “By being blessed with such a wonderful thing in our school, it’s awesome we can use that.”

If it’s possible, Langmeyer said she would like to continue the program.

“It would be wonderful if we got it up and going,” she said. “Maybe if we had anything extra, like tomatoes or something, we could use them on our salads in the cafeteria.”

Throughout the program, Langmeyer will also be looking for speakers.

“Anybody in the community that grows and has an interest in vegetable growing or gardening or interested in making donations for pots or seeds or whatever can contact me at the school,” she said.