by Joyce Caldwell, library media specialist, Perry Hall Middle School
This past summer, Lisa Perry, principal of Perry Hall Middle School asked her staff whether anyone would be interested in serving as a “wellness advocate” for the school, and music teacher Courtney Croxton jumped at the chance! Courtney says that she has been invested in improving her own mental and physical health for almost 10 years now, after losing over 100 pounds and gaining a whole new positive outlook on life.
Over the summer, Croxton planned events, activities, and goals for Perry Hall Middle staff, hoping to better unify the school’s large staff using health and wellness as a focus. Croxton researched many fitness and mental health activities, and Hungry Harvest was one that she discovered in her search.
Hungry Harvest, whose motto is “No produce left behind,” is a program that seeks to eliminate wasted food by selling and delivering to customers fruit and vegetables that won’t sell in stores due to problems with their appearance (e.g., blemishes, odd shapes, too large, etc.).
This program has encouraged Perry Hall Middle staff members to incorporate healthier foods in their diets. It has fostered communication among staff members as they share recipes both in and out of the school building, which also has helped enhance the work environment.
As Croxton says, “We have bonded as a staff through yoga, barre, and now recipe-sharing, with foods many of us have never tried before, such as kumquats, starfruit, and broccolini! Also — because so many people at Perry Hall Middle signed up using me as a reference, Hungry Harvest has worked with me to generate ‘free produce” coupons that I can raffle off each month for the staff!”
Linda Caccavalla agrees. “Hungry Harvest has provided me with fruit,” she says, “while my co-worker has provided me with recipes because of the fruit. It’s opened a dialogue throughout the school building. I now can make new recipes!”
The program even works for staff members like Lacy Lawhon. “I am not someone who knows how to cook,” she admits. “I eat very poorly. This has helped me to learn to cook some things and even to try some new foods. This is the beginning of a healthy start for my family.”
Every Monday, staff members look forward to their Hungry Harvest boxes delivered to the school, and enjoy some great laughs about how to use such random items in their cuisine for the week! The added benefit: by using Hungry Harvest, they are also helping others who are not as fortunate. For every delivery that Hungry Harvest makes, they donate 1-2 pounds of produce to the hungry through one of their donation partners or through a free farmer’s market set-up.