Nashville’s Only Four-Star Restaurant Teams Up With Charter School for Nutrition Education
In Nashville, Tenn., a new program to attack childhood hunger and obesity caused by poor nutrition combines hands-on gardening experience with classroom instruction to show children how to make the right choices in what they eat.
The gardening experience happens at the historic Glen Leven estate, a pre-Civil War, 66-acre urban farmstead and home five miles from The Hermitage Hotel that is owned by the Land Trust for Tennessee. In April 2010, under the direction of Executive Chef Tyler Brown, the hotel planted a period garden at Glen Leven using sustainable farming practices. Throughout the 2010 growing season the garden not only supplied the hotel’s four-star restaurant, the Capitol Grille, it also produced additional crops that were distributed to Nashville-area charitable organizations.
The new educational program resulted from a field trip in September when The Land Trust invited LEAD Academy seventh-grade students to visit Glen Leven — an opportunity for some of the students to visit a farm for the first time. From this initial visit, the partnership between the hotel, the Land Trust and the charter school grew into a year-long program about food and good nutrition that reinforces classroom lessons with experience in the Glen Leven garden.
Using the garden at Glen Leven as a backdrop for learning was a natural fit. “Not only do the students learn from what we share with them but they also have a chance to experience a bit of nature right in the middle of the city,” said Brown.
After the students’ visit to the garden, Brown met with LEAD Academy faculty to design programming for the rest of the school year that incorporates food and nutrition into the school’s core curriculum. More than 90 percent of the students who attend LEAD Academy are on the free- or reduced-lunch program so incorporating a program about nutrition into the learning process is crucial. Brown was inspired to work on this program by his continued work with Share Our Strength, an organization focused on ending childhood hunger by 2015.
Brown visits LEAD Academy every other month to serve a delicious lunch and talk with students about how his work relies on the kinds of knowledge the students are learning. For example, during his first visit to the school in November Brown talked about how preparing meals uses the knowledge of ratios and proportions that the students were studying. After meeting with the students, Brown shares a nutritious lunch prepared with vegetables from the Glen Leven garden and meats provided by area farmers whose methods and stock meet his high standards.
The topics of upcoming sessions will include social studies, with a focus us on how different cultures have influenced Southern Cuisine; history, where the students will explore historic menus to learn why and how our eating habits have changed; and the science of food, with a strong emphasis on the chemistry of cooking. Students will also visit Glen Leven again in the spring when Brown, his staff and a group of The LandTrust’s volunteers begin planting in the garden. #