One of the most popular Passions offerings this year was "Cooking" with Chef Marilyn Moore, who is also a food activist and the founder of Divine Appetite. Chef Marilyn (as the kids call her) teaches students about healthy eating habits for living healthy lives, especially during this developmental time in their lives. Every class students learned about healthy ingredients and helped cook something as a group, learning new healthful recipes to take home with them.
During Q4 their conversations turned more serious as students considered real Food Justice issues in their community. The group invited Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer to come into their class to hear a presentation they put together with findings from trips to local food stores. The theme the students' chose was "Less Is More" and each presentation focused on a specific idea within that theme.
"Less Stereotypes, More Healthy Options" Student Rachel focused on false stereotypes of migrant communities, such as Dominicans. told a story about how her ancestors survived on healthy root vegetables, which gave them the strength to endure rough conditions. But she sees a lack of healthy produce in her community.
"Less Sugary Drinks, More Healthy Options at Reasonable Prices" Student Aleya told a story about going into a local store on a hot day and having the urge to grab a Red Bull, the most prominent cold drink on the shelf, but remembering Chef Marilyn's lessons, she sought out a healthy bottle of water instead. She noted that water is always at the very bottom of the refrigerator section, which makes it harder to find and more likely that a customer will grab something less healthy that they see first. Aleya also discussed how healthier drinks, such as coconut water or kombucha, are often more expensive than sugary alternatives, making them less accessible to her community. "Less Sugary Drinks, More Healthy Options at Reasonable Prices"
"Less Alcohol, More Alcohol-Free Teens" Student Noah focused on the prevalence of alcoholic beverages, noting that at the store there are so many alcoholic options distracting customers from healthier, alcohol-free beverages. He is particularly concerned about teens, who may get curious to try alcohol especially when it is so readily available and prominent at the store.
MBP Gale Brewer listened intently to the students and shared some stories of her own. She engaged them about their ideas, presenting some additional, relevant facts. For instance, she brought up a ban on sugary drinks that was proposed by former Mayor Bloomberg, a bill she supported, but that was ultimately shut down because unions who employ manufacturers and drivers responsible for delivering sugary drinks fought back for fear of job loss.
Ultimately, MHP Brewer expressed her belief in the power of the individual, and told students that it only takes one person to take initiative to make a difference. She suggested that students spend time over the summer creating a more specific set of concerns and writing nice letters to store owners in the area to suggest certain changes. If store owners refuse to act in accordance, she offered to help them get something done by calling the Press!
Student Rachel summed up MHP Brewer's lesson, when she said: "Put your mind to what you want to do and use your resources".
Big thanks to Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer for taking the time to come to S2 and share ideas with our students!