Cooking and eating local is a top priority for Diana Woodworth and her culinary students at Sheboygan Falls High School. Fortunately, they don’t have far to go.
In a unique partnership, Woodworth’s students are able to use fresh produce grown in gardens on the school grounds that are maintained by Agriculture teacher Bruce Brunner and his students. Brunner’s students grow an assortment of fresh vegetables that Woodworth’s students process in class, making food that is used in the school cafeteria and also sold to students, teachers, and the community.
“I’m a firm believer in buying local and eating in season,” said Woodworth who appreciates this unusual opportunity to have fresh produce so close at hand. “I believe that we can’t cook, we can’t do anything without the help of our farmers.”
Woodworth’s students learn about food processing by turning fresh pumpkins and apples into pumpkin and apple butter. They make pickles and salsa out of fresh cucumbers and tomatoes. Her students also use the produce to create baked goods, which are sold in school and at a district craft show.
Her advanced students can choose their own projects and have to track sales and prepare cost analyses as part of their work. One of her current students decided to make strudel and was so overwhelmed by orders that he had to limit them.
Woodworth’s students also plan, prepare and serve at community breakfasts, lunches and dinners. In one recent outing, they prepared and served a hot lunch to their fellow students getting some hands-on experience in construction by helping build a new home for a family through Habitat for Humanity Lakeside. The other Habitat workers enjoyed the stew, potatoes, and freshly baked bread, too.
“I found them to be euphoric wonder works of culinary artistry. The very thought of this lunch warms me up!” said Jon Hoffman, Construction Manager for Habitat.
Sarah Beckman, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Lakeside, said the organization is delighted to be able to partner with students.
“We get excited about the opportunity to connect students to the idea of community involvement in that they're creating housing solutions for their fellow community members. Whether tech education or culinary students, they are both part of this,” she said.
She added that students’ involvement not only teaches them the importance of giving back to the community but also introduces them to possible job opportunities. “It's great to provide a spark for what career opportunities are available for students after high school,” she said.
Woodworth offers culinary classes to 7th and 8th graders to introduce them to the basics of kitchen equipment and vocabulary. Although some of her students have gone on to pursue careers in the field, Woodworth believes her classes can be useful to anyone.
“I think that everyone should know these things because we all eat,” she said.
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