Bringing Healthy Cooking To The Classroom With Stone Barns
Unilever is proud to partner with Stone Barns to expand cooking education into classrooms across the country.
Stone Barns Center isn’t just a place for growing vegetables and getting your hands dirty. It is a nonprofit on a mission to change the way America eats and farms. If you look at the larger picture, it’s a powerhouse of ideas focused on making our current food system healthier and more sustainable.
Stone Barns Center’s dedication to food system change makes them perfect partners because much of their work aligns with the Unilever health and sustainability goals laid out in the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan.
A Partnership for Change
The Stone Barns high school education program inspires students to become food citizens—individuals who understand that their food choices have meaningful impact on personal, environmental and community impact. The program has had great success by teaching students lessons on cooking, sustainability, health and food supply. So far, their innovative course has been limited to New York City high schools, but we want every student to learn about the impact of their food choices. That’s why Unilever brands Hellmann’s, Knorr, Lipton, Breyers, and Country Crock are supporting this curriculum and helping to make it available online to teachers across the country.
Beyond digital access though, we are also providing scholarships to teachers from low-income public schools so that they can travel to Stone Barns Center and learn the curriculum first-hand before bringing it back to their students in the fall. This coming summer, we will sponsor teachers from Miami, Los Angeles, Houston, Dallas and Chicago to attend this on-farm training. These teachers will also have the opportunity to participate in a grants program which will award money to implement ways to improve access to fresh food for their students, ensuring that a brighter food future is available to underserved communities.
Unilever has been working to increase sustainable food education and access with projects like this one and our Urban Farm in Harlem, and know there’s nobody more important for creating change than today’s youth. Helping expand this program nation-wide will mean many more students will cover all the impacts and benefits of smart food choices.
A Classroom, A Kitchen, A Cause
The Stone Barns Center’s high school education program explores food history and science, resilient agriculture, and ways to prepare fresh food. It was started in low-income New York City high schools, since these students are on the cusp of adulthood and making their own food decisions. Another reason though, was because many of the local communities lacked access to fresh food and knowledge about healthy eating. That void coupled with low incomes led to a reliance on fast food, which then led to high obesity rates.
To help solve these issues have a “Food Lab.” Here they can actually practice the skills they learn about healthy, seasonal cooking, as well as participate in online video conversations with chefs and farmers to better understand their food and where it comes from.
Students also have classroom discussions about our current food system exploring ways complex science concepts can be used in the real world. This means they graduate not just with useful home cooking skills, but a broader understanding of the food system.
As for improving food access, Unilever is helping grow healthy vegetables right in the center of these communities. These issues aren’t unique to New York City though, which is why we know helping to expand this program can have a huge impact. Here is what some of the people connected to the program have said about its success, and even more reasons we are helping expand the initiative:
- A graduate of the program: “No class has intrigued me as much with its readings, offered such great hands-on experience, had such a large impact on my life.”
- A Parent of a graduate: “[My daughter] has been cooking up a storm since the class started. Last year, she told me she didn’t see herself as one of those people who would ever learn to cook, but she has been cooking dinners and the family has been eating much better.”
- A program teacher: “Honest passion for food was not lost on our students, and should be shared again and again with many more groups…These are students who have never considered seasonality, for who healthy [eating] meant calorie counting and was limited to individuals.”
Some of the students even asked about taking an advanced course the following year, or assisting with teaching next year’s class.
Unilever is proud to be able to help The Stone Barns high school education program make the jump from a handful of NYC schools to high schools across the entire country, and to bring teachers to Stone Barns Center for hands-on training.
Fostering this dialogue between farmers, chefs, educators and students can help us improve nutrition and food education for families all across America, and promote sustainable farming to create a healthier, brighter future.