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Name: Carland Washington

Age: 36

Occupation: Principal

In the two years Carland Washington has overseen West Prep Academy middle school in New York City, he’s witnessed a changing view on how his students experience healthier food.

“Children are growing up in urban America and the only place they see relatively fresh produce is at their local deli. We’re re-educating them to know that you get just as full eating healthy food,” he says.

West Prep Academy partners with Wellness in the Schools, a program that pairs a chef with cafeteria staff and students. Each month focuses on a different produce item. When they studied beans, for example, the kids learned to make vegetable chili and hummus. “It’s really broadened their horizons,” Washington says. “We were chopping red peppers and one kid thought they were tomatoes. It’s revealing that some of the students couldn’t identify the basics we take for granted.”

Washington’s concerns extend beyond the boundaries of his own school. He hopes to encourage other communities to reimagine how they promote food choices and prioritize learning about health. “Home economics and nutrition classes are just as important as math and sports,” he says. “We’ve got to educate the whole child—bring healthy food into the classroom, let the kids play and experiment and taste so they can engage and understand its uses and purpose.”

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