Food Matters: Surprise! Garden-grown veggies are delicious!

Last Monday, a Learning Disabled (LD) class from PACE Academy participated in a Food Matters activity at Hargraves Community Center in Chapel Hill.  The IFFS Food Matters program offers one-time education activities covering diverse topics including shopping on a budget, tips for healthy cooking, home gardening, seasonal eating, and other nutrition principles. The class had been working in Parks & Recreation of Orange County’s Learning Garden every Monday throughout the fall.  In this Food Matters lesson, the PACE students  got to learn how to make a fresh and tasty meal, using the same types of veggies and herbs the students have been planting and growing in the Learning Garden. They made Veggie Whole Wheat Pizza with Swiss Chard – a healthy spin on an old favorite! Volunteer Nutritionist Maria Garrido gave the students  a quick interactive lesson on vegetables, whole grain, the benefits of eating local (and how more local can you get than out of your own garden?),  and the importance of eating a balanced diet with appropriate portion sizes.

Volunteer Nutritionist Maria Garrido teaching the group about vegetables

Topics covered included

  • The difference between whole wheat and white flour (we used a whole wheat pizza crust)
  • What parts of the vegetables we eat (roots, stems, leaves, flowers) and examples of each
  • What local means and how it benefits us nutritionally, reduces transportation costs, supports local farmers, provides variety in our diet as the produce varies seasonally, and is good for the environment
  • How different colored vegetables help us stay healthy in different ways

Then it was time to make the pizzas! The students got some first-hand cooking experience, guided by Maria. They took turns chopping onions, garlic, and kale, and rolling out the pizza dough. Then the students helped sauté the onions, garlic, and kale together, and top the pizza!

Volunteer Nutritionist Maria Garrido teaching the group about vegetables

Peeling garlic

When the pizzas were done baking, we had a feast! Along with the freshly baked pizzas, we had a salad – the students had also been growing red leaf lettuce! Some of the students were wary of this healthy veggie whole wheat pizza, claiming only to like pepperoni and cheese pizza on white bread crusts. “I don’t like vegetables,” some claimed.


Veggie Whole Wheat Pizza with Swiss Chard

Despite these initial hesitancies, they soon gobbled up the entire meal, declaring it delicious. They were surprised how good healthy can taste, and many even wanted seconds! What a difference learning new ways to prepare vegetables can make!