In a world where fast-paced living – and too often fast food – is the norm, Cornerstone Schools has begun an exciting journey towards taking a slower approach to improve wellness. Our Comprehensive Wellness Program is an innovative initiative designed to nurture good, healthy habits among our students and allow them to be role models and mentors for healthy living with their peers and families. With a focus on nutrition education, culinary skills training, physical fitness, and urban gardening, our aim is not just to foster well-being in the classroom but to extend it to the community.

Federal Support For Healthy Eating

The need for such efforts is great, with the USDA designating $30 million to improving school nutrition. Through that allocation, we are thrilled that Action for Healthy Kids (AFHK) is helping support our approach by awarding Cornerstone a Healthy Meals Incentives grant.

Culinary Arts & Science: Cooking Up Success

The foundation for our initiative is the Culinary Arts and Science program at Lincoln-King High School.  By providing students with a deeper understanding of the importance of balanced eating – and exposure to healthy food options – we’re empowering them to make informed choices about their diet. Students are introduced to new foods, healthy options and the skills to prepare nutritious, delicious meals. They, in turn, are sharing their knowledge with others.

While the grant has allowed us to upgrade equipment in the Culinary program kitchen, more importantly, it is allowing us to introduce healthy options to the students and families of Cornerstone, as Culinary students take samples and host tastings at all our schools.

 Sharing Healthy Food With Our Community

The Culinary students kicked off their outreach tastings during our recent Verizon Integrated Learning Schools (VILS) rollout event at Jefferson-Douglass Academy. They prepared yogurt and berry parfaits, as well as charcuterie cups of meats, cheeses and fruit, for 300 hungry attendees, and achieved the goal of exposing our community to new, healthy choices.

“Our students truly enjoyed the food, and were also impressed that it was made by other students,” said JDA Principal Monica Thompson. “For many of them, these two snacks constituted at least one food they’d never tried. We hope this means that they will continue to be open to trying new, healthy foods in the future.”

The culinary class also recently conducted a cooking demonstration and served dinner to families at Madison-Carver Academy. The students cooked and served garlic honey chicken with rice pilaf, steamed broccoli and salad. They discussed the importance of a healthy menu, and printed the recipes to share with the families. They even shared some tips and tricks, for instance, they advised to use chicken broth rather than water when making rice pilaf for an extra pop of flavor.

This well-attended event served not only to highlight Cornerstone’s commitment to healthy habits, but to build community at Madison-Carver. Families were clearly delighted with the meal and the event, and were asking when the next one will be.

Markisha Stovall, dean of students, remarked, “This is a great event on many levels. Our families can meet ‘at the table’ and enjoy a meal together. They saw how their children responded to the delicious, healthy food and have a new recipe to make at home. They also got to see Cornerstone’s commitment to healthy habits and our willingness to create something unique, like the culinary program, that will have a lasting impact on students’ lives. It was a success, and we can’t wait to do it again!”

We’ll be sharing other aspects of the Wellness Program, including the urban garden, physical fitness and more throughout the year.