Lacretia Jefferson shuffled the stack of colorful handmade cards on the table.
Her long braids brushed the cards as she moved them back and forth across the wooden surface. The tip of one braid grazed a card shaded in purple crayon. Another fell upon a card with a cartoonish picture of an orange carrot. Jefferson arranged the cards into a vibrant tapestry across the small round table.
All face-down, each card’s back read, “EAT YOUR COLORS” in large block letters. Five high school students sat around the edge of the table, their eyes focused intently on the cards.
“Go!” exclaimed Jefferson.
The five students stretched their arms across the table, clamoring for the cards and flipping them over vigorously.
Jefferson, a junior at Parkway Center City High School, is a SOL (which stands for sustainable, organic, local) Food Youth Leader with Greener Partners, a nonprofit organization that works to increase local access to fresh food. She leads youth around the city through gardening and farming lessons.
This winter at Girard College, she is walking students through nutrition and food-science lessons geared toward science, technology, engineering, and math, with a different theme each week.
“I got it!” yelled a tall, slender boy to Jefferson’s left, dressed in a Girard College athletic sweatshirt. He handed her two cards, one with the drawing of a blueberry, and another with the words “purple” and “blue” across the front.
“So, what do these mean?” asked Jefferson as she turned to her left for an answer.
“Blue and purple foods strengthen our brain. They help prevent memory loss,” the boy replied.
He was spot-on.
This activity was just one component of the Girard College Garden Club’s extended-day itinerary.
Before getting to the game table, students in the club learned what it means to “eat a rainbow,” hence the colorful game cards.
“It’s important for us to eat foods of all different colors: red, orange, blue, green, white, yellow” said Jefferson, who planned the evening’s lesson. “Each food color group gives our bodies different nutrients.”
Another activity, led by Jefferson’s colleague Mateneky Sanoe, required students to guess the vegetable pictured on a tag strung down their chests. Using clues supplied by their peers, the students named “tomato” and “beet” within seconds, while “Swiss chard” and “okra” weren’t as easily identified.
The program is meant to increase students’ interest in science, and it also educates them about proper nutrition and gives them the skills to prepare healthy meals.
At the end of the hour-and-a-half program, the club engaged in a Swiss chard pasta cooking lesson.
A handful of eager students crowded around the sink to wash greens grown in the school garden, and another group of students put blades to cutting boards, chopping up green onions and Swiss chard.