By John Larson – email@example.com
A group of fifth-graders at Lakeview Hope Academy were in for a special surprise on April 24 when several representatives of the Tacoma Rainiers stopped by their classroom. Players Austin Nola and Matt Tenuta, along with mascot Rhubarb, were on hand for an event sponsored by the Beecher’s Foundation.
The non-profit organization, which is based in Seattle, was founded in 2004 by Sugar Mountain CEO Kurt Beecher Dammeier. It began with funding from sales of Beecher’s cheese products. It has since transitioned to become a public charity, allowing it to accept funding from a variety of other sources.
Through direct programing, the foundation provides food education and inspires people to eat quality food. Its work in Lakewood aims to promote lasting change in the community’s food-based health. In 2018 it partnered with Pierce County Executive Bruce Dammeier, the city of Lakewood, Clover Park School District and the Boys and Girls Club of Lakewood on a six-month initiative to reach 1,500 local residents.
The program for elementary students is for fourth and fifth-graders at Tyee Elementary and Lakeview Hope Academy, which shares a campus with the Boys & Girls Club. Students at Clover Park High School explored the state of the modern food system from an equity and social justice perspective. The adult program explored power and influence in the food system and uncovered ways to improve eating habits and the community’s collective well-being.
The elementary students have learned to be “food detectives,” reading ingredient lists and learning about marketing tactics that lure children into eating food full of sugar and fat.
They have been instructed in some basic food preparation techniques. Knife skills are taught with plastic knives due to the children’s young age. One item they made was vegetable chili, made with bell peppers, tomatoes and cilantro. “They loved it and gobbled it up,” said Foundation President Sara Morris. The lesson on April 24 was agua fresca with pineapple and cowboy caviar, a dish made with red onions and beans.
The children spent a few minutes dancing around with Rhubarb and the players, then had an opportunity to ask them a few questions. Nola, a Louisiana native, was drafted after four years playing at Louisiana State University. Tenuta, who grew up in North Carolina, was drafted out of high school. Both have played at the professional level for six years. They discussed how their participation in sports began at a young age.
The district would like to work with the foundation to expand the program to more schools for the 2019-20 school year. More information can be found at www.beechersfoundation.org.