Nourishing Mt. Healthy students

The WeTHRIVE Wellness Committee at Mt. Healthy City Schools (a WeTHRIVE! school district) is finding creative ways to engage and nourish students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Cooking together

At South Elementary School, physical education teacher Katie Milbower started a virtual cooking club for students last fall. “We were in remote learning and I just wanted to continue to do activities to engage our families, to keep a sense of community,” she said.

screen shot of zoom cooking class
(Photo provided by Katie Milbower.)

Katie (a member of the district’s wellness committee) and fellow teacher Julie Wakefield run the evening classes. They also assemble bags of recipe ingredients that are given to the first 15 families to sign up for each cooking club session.

To cover costs, Katie partners with local organizations and the school’s PTA. For February’s cooking club, Tikkun Farm in Mt. Healthy provided families with crockpots and ingredients. This month, New Leaf Kitchen provided cooking kits with items like kid-friendly utensils, an apron, and a chef’s hat.

“We have a core group who sign up and show up to every single class,” Katie said. “The families really enjoy it.” 

With the success of South Elementary’s cooking club, the wellness committee partnered with OSU Extension–Hamilton County (a WeTHRIVE! partner) to bring the Eat Smart, Be Active 9-week virtual nutrition/cooking class series to the district. The program began on March 10. The first ten families who signed up will receive all the ingredients needed to prepare recipes along with the instructor during the online class time. 

Ensuring food security

The wellness committee and food service department teamed up to apply for the No Kid Hungry grant.

“We were awarded $50,000 to spend on food equity for our district, to get food out to more people, whether they are in remote or in-school learning,” said Fredrika Richardson, food service director and head of the wellness committee.

Grant funds are being used to create a food pantry at the district school board office. “We’re really excited about it,” Fredrika said. “We’re just at the beginning stages. We’ve selected a location and the room is prepped, and we’ll be getting a two-door commercial grade cooler and freezer, and shelving. We’ll be able to buy and package food to give out to parents.”

Other ways the district is making sure that students don’t go hungry during the pandemic include:

  • Fun Food Fridays — parents of remote learners can pick up a week’s worth of breakfasts and lunches at school bus stops.
  • USDA Farmers to Families program — 1000 boxes of fresh produce and dairy products are given out on select Thursdays. 

More projects sprouting this spring!

School Garden

grassy area next to school building and six wooden garden beds filled with dirt

Katie Milbower and her father built six garden beds at South Elementary last year. They were ready to plant when the pandemic hit and school closed. But this year is looking better.

“I’m currently working with our school psychologist to start a gardening club for our students that might need some connection,” Katie said. “I would love for it to also be kind of like an outdoor library for the kids, a place where they can see different plants growing.”

(Photo provided by Katie Milbower.)

Staff Wellness

“Now that teachers are back in the building, the wellness committee is working on trying to develop some things for staff,” Fredrika said. “Like yoga classes and nutrition classes that our dietitian has done before.” 

Top photo courtesy of Mt. Healthy City Schools (left to right): Members of Mt. Healthy’s WeTHRIVE! wellness committee — Madison Kist, MS, RD LD (district dietitian); Fredrika Richardson, SNS (director of food service); and Becky Wietmarschen (food service administrative assistant).