Teaching open-mindedness through food at York Country Day

Alyssa Pressler
  • The school has introduced a program called "New Food Friday" this year.
  • Students are introduced to a new superfood at the beginning of each month.
  • The program encourages help and open-mindedness, administrators say.

Diana Staub, chef at York Country Day School, called on 6-year-old Rosie Gray to help her demonstrate how a cranberry bounces.

"It's a good one!" Staub said, after the cranberry bounced a few times on the ground.

Chef Diana Staub, pats York Country Day School first-grader Rosie Gray, 6, on the back after Rosie helped out with a cranberry food demonstration Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, in Spring Garden Township. York Country Day School has a new monthly food series called New Food Friday, this month series focuses on cranberries  and will be implemented into the monthly meal plan. Amanda J. Cain photo

Students at York Country Day School are taking the time to learn about a new superfood each month in a program called New Food Friday.

On the first Friday of each month, a new superfood is discussed during lunchtime with students of all ages at the school. Staub takes time to give a few facts about the newest superfood.

This month, students are learning about cranberries.

Staub talked with students about the cranberry harvesting process and the different machinery used to determine if a cranberry is good or not, which involves bouncing them. She also told the room full of first- and second-graders about the uses Native Americans had for cranberries and the different foods that are made with the fruit.

"I like to hear how much food they can be in, like cranberry sauce," said Josie Kraft, a 7-year-old student in second grade. Josie said she enjoys going home and telling her parents about the new foods she tries in school, which is exactly what Head of School Christine Heine hopes students will do.

Heine explained that teaching students about new foods and how they are moved from where they grow to the cafeteria is just one part of New Food Friday. She's also hoping it will encourage students to live healthier lifestyles and keep open minds about all things, not just food.

"A healthy relationship with food will serve students well," she said. "Because of the planning and intention behind it, they can take it home to their parents and become influential students of the world."

Samples: On New Food Friday, Staub will walk around after her lessons and let students sample the food they are learning about, be it raw or made into something else, such as the cranberry, apple and pomegranate crisp the students tried on Friday.

But the lessons don't stop there.

Chartwells, the dining-service provider for the school, then tries to incorporate the food into the menu all month long, according to regional director Michael Lannon. Throughout the month, students will try cranberry sauce, a cranberry and orange relish, and a pear and cranberry spinach salad.

Lannon also said Chartwells picks superfoods that are in season, allowing parents to easily find the foods if their child is excited about them.

Heine said none of the students are forced to try the new foods. She believes it's important that students decide whether they will try a certain dish, but the school still stresses that the students should keep an open mind.

Danielle Kardisco, a first-grade teacher with the school, said open-mindedness is something that translates well into the classroom.

"We tell them that to learn something new they have to try something new," she said.

Sometimes the superfood of the month can be incorporated into what Kardisco is doing in class. For example, the first month the school tried the New Friday Food, the food was avocados. Each class got an avocado seed to examine and make observations about, and they then talked about the growing process.

During another month, students learned about dried fruits and were able to see the dehydration process.

Lannon said this new program is an example of how the school and administrators such as Heine work hard to ensure that education happens all over the school campus, even during lunch time.

"It's about exposing them to new things and giving them information," he said.