Nutrition, Reading, Writing, Arithmetic: Students Learn How it All Adds Up

Students at Carrie Gosch Early Childhood Center and Harrison Elementary School are reaping the fruits of seeds planted years ago.

In 2019, Catholic Charities donated seven slow cookers to NEP. Early plans were to give the slow cookers to one school so students could make “Stone Soup.” But then the pandemic forced the closure of all Indiana schools.

That gave CWC Veronica Jalomo time to reimagine the plan: introduce a different book and a related, nutritious meal every month of the school year.

After years of delays and perseverance, the popular program is now in 13 classrooms and two schools.

“Cooking in the classroom is not only fun but teaches responsibility, good nutrition and provides sensory and tactile learning experiences,” she said. “It’s also great for math skills such as counting, weighing, measuring, and learning your colors. Cooking with students builds their vocabulary and helps with sequencing, following directions, and listening skills. It’s about having fun and building community and relationships.”

Thanks to funding from the Area HealthEducation Center at Purdue Northwest to purchase nine additional Crockpots,  storage carts and other cooking utensils.

Another community partner’s, Top 20 Inc., was awarded a $10,000 grant from Franciscan Health to purchase the needed food and to expand the program to three second-grade classrooms at McKinley Elementary. The funding also covered the materials needed for the second school: carts, utensils, slow cookers, and the bins used to hold all the event’s ingredients and delivered to the classroom.

The idea has been a huge success. Every month, Top 20 purchases the ingredients needed for all the classrooms. The ingredients are pre-measured and added to the kits.

Once delivered to the classrooms, the teachers display the ingredients and discuss the colors and amounts. Once the students add ingredients to the Crockpot, teachers read the corresponding book.

“We have some parent volunteers that help with the kits and on cooking day,” Veronica said. “One of the parents said, ‘I loved the chicken meal we prepared in December. The whole school smelled really good. I made the recipe at home. My husband does not like eating chicken but he was willing to try the recipe. He liked it so much that he asked to have some packaged for him to take to work.’”

Said Dr. Rasheeda Green, McKinley Elementary School’s principal, “We truly enjoy having this project at our school. The teachers here (McKinley) are jealous that only second grade classrooms get to participate.”