EUGENE, Ore. — September is National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month, and while the obesity rate has remained steady in Oregon, it’s still a problem sweeping the nation. One local school is taking a unique approach to tackling the issue.
The MLK Education Center is an alternative school that’s taking steps to ensure that its students develop a healthy lifestyle. One way it’s doing that is through its culinary arts program, which goes beyond the national school lunch program. Here, students learn the value of nutrition with a hands-on approach that starts in the community garden.
“We have a garden to get produce from, and they learn how to harvest the produce and how to prepare it, clean it, and chop it up and use it in recipes,” says Jose Alvarez, the program’s food and nutrition supervisor.
The MLK Education Center serves students who have an active case with Lane County Youth Services, so a healthy and positive lifestyle is the goal. The school also believes that a healthy diet will ultimately encourage healthy behaviors and decision-making. Rayin Jordan, a senior at MLK, stresses that this philosophy is important.
“I’m in a vocational program here where I’m training for life skills and stuff,” says Jordan. “I go out all the time working on trails, and eating healthy food just makes you feel way better throughout the day, and they give you that energy and strength that you need to keep you running.”
Everything the students make is from scratch. They cater a number of events all over town and they’ll also be tailgating Duck games, so visitors will have plenty of opportunities to try their food.