Fried Green Tomatoes: Chicago Tribune Covers Jean Saunders’ Healthy Cooking Demo in a High School En

April 27, 2007

by Tara Kennon, HSC Writer & Publications Coordinator

At HSC, we like to think of food education as part of everything kids do at school — from the messages they get from their teachers to the food they’re served in the cafeteria. One of the most productive and interesting ways to achieve this is to integrate lessons about food systems and healthy eating into other courses, as a way to enrich both the course and the message.

Michelle Keller does a wonderful job illustrating how such integration works in today’s Chicago Tribune article, “Class Caters to Healthy Life.”

In the article, Keller describes Jean Saunders, HSC director of school wellness, cooking fried green tomatoes in an English class at Pritzker College Prep as part of a discussion of the historical context of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Keller writes:

Throughout the course of the lesson, they discussed the price, availability and health benefits of food. For example, fried green tomatoes are typically made with bacon fat — not the heart-healthy canola oil Saunders used.

“Canola oil has polyunsaturated fats,” she told the class. “Those are healthier fats. We’re trying to modify our cooking technique to make it more healthy.”

Part of the Noble Network of Charter Schools, Pritzker opened in the fall and currently has about 150 freshmen. Principal Pablo Sierra said almost 85 percent of the students are on a free- or reduced-cost lunch program.

“The lunch they get at school might be as good as it gets for some of these kids,” said Michael Kucera, an English teacher at Pritzker.

Saunders, her colleagues at the Healthy Schools Campaign and Noble Network officials also want to improve the cafeteria food.

“We’ve been working on some programs, trying to figure out how we can create a healthy food environment,” she said. “We believe that everyone should have access to healthy food — and that certainly involves schools.”

Interested in other ways we can think differently about food education in schools? Jean is currently attending the International Exchange Forum on Children, Obesity, Food Choice and the Environment in the Loire Valley of France and is reporting daily on their discussions and findings — check out her blog entries and photos from France.