Culinary Celebration At College Park Elementary School Promotes Healthy Eating And Etiquette Education

College Park Elementary School recently hosted a memorable culinary celebration event, thanks to a partnership between Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, iHeartMedia, The Atlanta Dream and Common Threads, a national nutrition education nonprofit. 

This 2-day event was part of an ongoing initiative to provide students, families, and staff with valuable cooking and nutrition education, encouraging lifelong healthy habits. 

Since 2022, this collaborative effort has been instrumental in establishing and maintaining an in-school food pantry at College Park Elementary. This pantry serves as a permanent resource for the school community, ensuring access to nutritious food options. Last year, hands-on cooking and nutrition education were added to the initiative, inspiring the community to embrace healthy cooking practices.

As part of the initiative, a field trip was taken by the school’s 5th graders to the Georgia International Convention Center. Here, they were treated to a multi-course banquet-style meal as part of Common Threads’ “Manners Matter” program. This interactive experience aimed to teach students basic etiquette skills and underscored the importance of enjoying meals with others. 

During the banquet, Common Threads chefs and staff guided the young diners to try new foods and learn about different courses. Anthem volunteers and players from The Atlanta Dream were also present at each table, helping the students practice the art of making conversation. The event provided an opportunity for students to broaden their culinary horizons and develop essential social skills.

“They were taught several things along the etiquette line. They learned where their forks and utensils are supposed to go, putting your napkin in your lap, how to talk to other people at your table, and the importance of putting away your phone. They also learned the importance of actually having conversation with the people that are seated at your table. What do you talk about? They learned all those kinds of things,” Kersha Cartwright, Public Relations Director at Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield said. 

The culinary celebration served as the culmination of a series of interactive culinary programming at College Park Elementary. Students had the chance to prepare and share recipes they had learned, showcasing their newfound skills and knowledge. 

“They had their parents come, and a lot of these students cooked some of the things that they’ve been learning how to cook in these classes that they’ve taken. It was really cute things like, granola parfaits and different flavors of popcorn, those kinds of things that kids can make,” Cartwright said. 

To date, the food pantry has provided over 50,000 pounds of food and 4,300 hours of accompanying education to the College Park Elementary School community.

Looking ahead, the partnership aims to continue supporting organizations that focus on healthier living and community development. By partnering with local hospital systems on food medicine programs and supporting initiatives that align with their mission, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield and its partners are committed to building healthier communities.

“Our foundation grants focus on three pillars. They are maternal health, behavioral health, which is, substance use disorders, and then food is medicine. That’s really what this particular grant focuses on, food medicine,” Cartwright said. “We will continue to work with organizations that place an emphasis on healthier eating with and through our whole health approach to health.” 

The reception from the students was overwhelmingly positive, with many expressing excitement about learning new things and trying new foods. The culinary celebration provided a fun and educational experience for students, further underscoring the importance of promoting healthy eating habits from a young age. 

Overall, the event exemplified the commitment of all partners involved to empower students and foster healthier communities.

“Here at Common Threads, we aim to improve community health through the power of nutrition and food. Our multi-year partnership with iHeart and Anthem continues to allow us to build more equitable and vibrant communities,” Linda Novick O’Keefe, Common Threads’ Chief Executive Officer said.

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