Rodriguez Elementary

Reported by: RFS Team Leader-Kendall Moister,  S2P Instructors, Frank Schnitzer and Claire Olivo

Team Nutrition Leader: Mrs. Sylvia Healy, HISD Culinary Ancillary Teacher 

RFS programming began - September 2006

Number of children served each month: 733 children

RFS partners with Rodriguez to provide unique full-time Seed-to-Plate Nutrition Education™ Ancillary programming during the school day, reaching every student in multiple week-long rotations.  Monday is focused on the culture of food, Tuesday is spent in the garden, Wednesday is recipe prep day, Thursday is a cooking and eating day and Friday is Review, Reports and Games. 

The 4th grade students are also paired with a Chefs in Schools™ volunteer who visits on Thursdays during their rotation.  With this schedule, every Rodriguez student receives 20 hours of S2P hands-on instruction each year. 

Other Programming:

During the summer of 2008, RFS piloted our month-long Eat This! Summer Camp™ at Rodriguez for 25 students, led by former Team Leader, Chef Carolyn Carcassi.  Students spent 6 hours a day in class and culminated with a fiesta for their parents and teachers.

Chef Carolyn also designed and delivered our Eat This Baby!™ parent classes each Friday, throughout the 2008/2009 school year to 20 participating parents.

In 2009, Rodriguez received a grant from The City of Houston's After School Achievement Program to provide after school classes for 30 3rd-5th grade students, for 2 hours each day, Monday-Friday.  RFS has designed a special combination of Eat This!™ and Kids Dig It!™ after school classes for these students. Mondays and Wednesdays are garden days, Tuesdays are cooking days, Thursday is the Wellness Wagon preparation day--this is a healthy snack cart program to sell fruits, veggies, and other healthy snacks before school and our students are involved in every aspect of the cart, and Fridays are fun days that include tasty, healthy snacks, garden time, and a review of the week.  This is the most intense after school programming we deliver and has met with astounding success! 

In 2010, we once again offered our Eat This! Summer CampTM   to 20 4th and 5th grade students.   The 2010-11 School Year marked the end of the very successful 2-year long after school program funded through the ASAP Grant.  For the 2011-12 school year, Rodriguez was awarded after school funding through CASE, and RFS has been selected as the provider of choice for a two-day after school program servicing the 1st through 5th grades.  

RFS Chefs in Schools instructors for 2011-2012 are

Chef Joe Apa, Rudyards  (Monthly CIS classes since 2009)

Chef Jerry Shawn, Angela's Oven (Monthly CIS classes since 2009)

Chef Peter Garcia, El Meson (Monthly CIS classes since 2006)

Chef Ryan Pera, Revival Market (Monthly CIS Classes since 2007)

Chef Neal Cox, The Houstonian (Monthly ClS classes since 2011)


Members of the RFS Chefs Advisory Board who have taught at Rodriguez:

Joe Apa (t'afia)


Robert DelGrande (RDG + Bar Annie)

Peter Garcia (El Meson)

Tarsha Geary (private chef & caterer)

Tracy Horton (Central Market)

Junajett Hurapan (Gigi's Asian Bistro)

Al King (Water2Wine)

Nicole Livezy (private chef)

Jerry Shawn (Angela's Oven)

John Sheely (Mockingbird Bistro)

Philippe Schmit (Philippe's)

Ruffy Sulaiman (Hilton Americas) 

Chris Garcia (Galleria Athletic and Tennis Club)

The Rodriguez Recipe Garden:

At ½ acre, the Recipe Garden is now the largest in our system. When RFS began programming at Rodriguez, there were 3 existing garden beds built by Urban Harvest.  There was also a courtyard garden built by a former teacher that includes fruit trees, a pond, and raised gardening boxes.  In 2007, we added 6 beds, so that each grade level would have one garden bed, totaling 9 beds.  In 2008, we built an additional 17 garden beds.   Now, each grade level has 3 garden beds, giving each classroom teacher plenty of space to garden.  Two beds are dedicated to wildflower future berry bushes, 2 beds are dedicated to butterfly garden planting, and 1 bed is dedicated to perennial herbs and parent involvement.  

There are 2 composting stations, and a classroom vermiculture (worm) composting box.  For Arbor Day 2010, we planted 12 fruit trees: mango, guava, 2 Meyer lemon, Bonanza Miniature Peach, Saijo persimmon, Nova mandarin, orange, Mexican lime, Star Fruit, and 2 Miho Satsuma. 

Special RFS Events at Rodriguez:

RFS S2P students recently catered the Harris County Department of Education's Town Hall Meeting with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, where they were prepared healthy snacks for 300 guests and lunch for the Secretary and his staff.  

The students showcase their culinary skills at school expos, including the Gift and Talented Expo and the After School Program Expo.  

The 2010-11 after school program spent many hours in the kitchen classroom and the garden, bridging the gap between the two in a complete seed-to-plate program.  The class not only became expert gardeners and accomplished little chefs over the course of the year but they also became the school caterers!  When events such as Back to School Night and Millionaires Book Club hosted events, they turned to the healthy meals created by the RFS after school class.  The grand finale came at the end of the year when they catered the Night of the Arts open to over 200 people which celebrates and showcases student art.  Dressed in chef coats and hats, they prepared and served the entire event adding a team spirit to the night they will not soon forget.   

Volunteer Activities and projects implemented on campus by RFS with our Partners:

September 2007, RFS staff, teachers, students, and parents build 6 garden beds.  October 2008, 100 volunteers from US Foodservice helped us build 17 raised beds.
February 2010, members of the Wellness and Health Committee, US Foodservice volunteers, students, and community volunteers plant 12 fruit trees in the garden   
May 2010, After school students participate in a Lemonade Day Program
October 2010, Children's book author, Gwen Zepeda, provides small group readings of her book, "I Kick the Ball" (Pateo el balon) and each child received a copy of "I Kick the Ball" sponsored by Arte Publico Press.
November 2010, Fall Garden Work Day
Spring 2011, Photographer Tom Wolf followed the after school students through the process of planting, harvesting and cooking to capture the true seed to plate process.  He photographed each process then let the students get behind the lens to let them snap shots their accomplishments in growing the seed, harvesting the produce and creating a healthy and delicious meal.  
March 2011, Spring Garden Work Day - Faculty and staff at Rodriguez Elementary took on the task of garden beautification as part of their team building program in the spring.  Working together in the garden provided a wonderful back drop to work with team mates and take a break from the classroom.  Building and painting garden signs and harvesting early spring veggies was interactive and fun!
September 2011, Fall Garden Work Day - Activities included getting our garden ready to plant the fall and winter garden, fertilizing all of our beds with fresh compost, painting garden beds with garden murals and building a brand new compost area.

Wellness Committee Update from Rodriguez: Since 2007, RFS has been a partner with the Garden and Wellness Committee to provide guidance and support concerning the garden.  RFS and the Garden and Wellness Committee planned all three garden workdays, designed a watering plan, and work to encourage all Rodriguez staff to utilize the garden.   

The Committee has had meetings and discussions about how to improve school lunch options; conducted outreach to parents about healthy lifestyle food choices and how to increase student physical activity.  Many teachers at Rodriguez took part in the "Show Us Your Veggies, 5-A-Day Challenge," and Rodriguez can claim the overall winner of all of the schools that participated in the 5-A-Day Challenge: Ms. Perez Lewis, who consumed more than 200 fruits and vegetables in March!  

Our second grade teachers planted butterfly plants in 3 of the beds in the Recipe Garden. 

During the 10-11 school year, the wellness committee kicked off the first annual fundraiser for the garden.  After one month of collecting change from each classroom the committee was able to raise enough money to fund a new seating area in the garden for visitors to enjoy.

US Foodservice has adopted RFS programming at Rodriguez and expanded to provide even more support to the faculty and students.  100 volunteers helped us build the Recipe Garden, employees regularly volunteer in our classroom and garden and in 2008 and 2009, employees donated school supplies and holiday gifts to every Rodriguez student.

American Seed Company has gifted wildflower seeds to our Recipe Gardens, Houston-Galveston Area Council has awarded an Orchards in Schools Grant to plant trees.  Hidden Valley Ranch awarded $10,000 to expand the RFS programming with the Healthy Snack Cart and healthy veggie tastings offered in the school cafeteria.  City of Houston After School Enrichment Program awarded a $40,000 grant for RFS after-school programming 

We know our message is getting through in part because:  

"Recipe for Success has opened the eyes of all of our students on the benefits of nutritious foods and healthy eating choices.  The knowledge our students gain by the hands-on experience in the garden as well as creating delicious and nutritional foods is truly priceless," says school principal, Elena Buley.

Chef Kendall's Update:

The 2010-11 School year was a tremendous success! Five 4th grade classes participated in the Journalism contest with nearly each student making a submission.  Students eagerly wrote about their favorite family recipes and traditions and were able to share them with their whole class.  Teachers took this opportunity to engage students in the creative writing process.  We also had the highest teacher participation of any year in the 5-a-Day contest in March 2011.  Many teachers took the oversized contest boards and stickers as a launching pad for their own version of the competition.  They were competing not only for the grand prize but grade level competitions began popping up and students were cheering on their teachers to hold them accountable.

For the 2011-12 school year, we are looking forward to continuing the wellness wagon project during Wednesday early dismissal days to offer healthy snacks and garden harvest.  In the continued effort to encourage healthy eating at school and home we will be showcasing garden harvest to take home or as a snack during school.  

The Culinary Core and Art Core Enrichment Programs built a very successful partnership in 2010-11 through the production of the Night of the Arts.  The partnership was so successful, that the two programs have decided to take that partnership to the next level.  This year the Night of the Arts theme celebrates both the synergy between art, food, and music, and the 10th Anniversary of Rodriguez Elementary.  Students will be hard at work throughout the school year on their exhibition pieces for "Foodie: Art is Food, Food is Art".  Art students will be using food as their medium for art.  In addition, the Culinary Core Enrichment Program will be working with the art program to highlight superfoods, garden harvest, and photography opportunities.  Fourth grade art students will be to participating with a special project revolving around their Chefs in Schools chef.  They will have the opportunity to interview their chefs and then create their chef's portrait on canvas using fruits and vegetables as their medium.  The music department will be accompanying the evening event through creation of music with kitchen and garden tools and natural sounds.  The entire Core Enrichment Team is working together to create a strong synergy between each of these creative outlets with healthy food is at its epicenter.

Thanks to our sponsors:

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