Students know what's cooking at Zenith
Camden — A pilot project that allows students attending Camden Hills Regional High School’s alternative education program a chance to take an active role in their own nutrition has been extremely successful, according to school officials.
At the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, Zenith Director Helen Scipione and Five Town Community School District Food Services Director Susan Boivin discussed a better way to provide nutritious food to high school students attending Zenith.
In years past, students had to walk from the classroom on Lion's Lane to the Camden-Rockport Middle School cafeteria to have lunch, but with the new program, students have lunch brought to them and once a week prepare it themselves.
“Helen provides me a list of what they need for the week and my staff here at the high school packages it up and delivers it to Zenith,” Boivin said. “We have a bus that was already going to be at the high school and returning to the bus barn in the mornings, so as far as getting the food to the students it has worked great.”
Boivin also meets with the students on a regular basis to find out what they think can be changed and what they would like to stay the same.
“For the most part, when we started there was a lot of: 'can we have' this or that,” Boivin said. “Now we have fined-tuned things. All I get from underneath those pulled up hoods an pulled down ball caps is ‘I like what we are doing, please don’t stop.'”
Students create a weekly menu based on state nutritional guidelines. Additionally, students are now able to have breakfast at Zenith.
“At the beginning of the year Susan and I got together and felt that there is a better way to provide a hot meal for these kids that are coming to school hungry and are too embarrassed to say so,” Scipione said. “Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday Susan provides us with what is needed for a hot meal and by the looks of things this is a real hit because everybody seems to be eating it.”
Thursdays, students are allowed to choose their own meal and are responsible for creating a shopping list as well as deciding who is responsible for preparation and clean-up of that day's lunch.
“This is a prefect setting to do something like this,” Boivin said. “They have a kitchen at Zenith and they are learning to be able to prepare food for not just themselves, but others at the same time.”
She added, “The kids love the changes too, I think that they appreciate that we are helping them and giving them an opportunity to be part and have a say in what they get to eat.”
“The kids are really enjoying learning an important life-skill and at the same time are receiving a healthy meal,” Scipione said.
Junior Jared Gilbert said he feels being able to help cook and do the chores that are connected to preparing the meal as a group fits the culture and the idea behind alternative classes in the first place.
“I think it’s awesome,” Gilbert said. “We are able to learn about a lot of things, not just cooking. We learn about working as a group, a healthy diet, how to budget and how to go grocery shopping.”
Gilberts also said kids like to have a say in what is going on in their lives and the program gives them a chance to offer input and be heard.
“They [Scipione and Boivin] give us ideas of what we can and can’t have and we can tell them what we want and that is pretty cool I think,” Gilbert said. “It is also cool that we can work together to make the meal, then sit down and share it together.”
Scipione said she developed similar programs in other districts to provide students the fuel to be able to learn and function better on a daily basis. She said she knows there are students district-wide who come to school hungry.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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