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Worcester Students Fight for Healthier Lunches

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

 

Doherty Memorial High School's P.E.A.C.H. Club.

It's not every day we can say that a school club has made a difference in the school and the community.. However, we can say this about a club at Doherty High School called P.E.A.C.H. (Promoting exercise and continuous health.)

The PEACH Club began in 2007 after receiving a $3,000 grant from the Massachusetts Action for Healthy Kids, an organization with whom they continue to work every year. The mission of the PEACH Club is to work within the Worcester Public Schools guidelines to gain the optimal nutritional and physical activity available for the students and community.

According to Principal Sally Maloney, the club has been a great asset to the school and the community. It has had the power of student involvement to affect change. Principal Maloney then went on to say that this club has fostered positive relationships among all members of the community and promoted a spirit of togetherness and a focus on healthy living for everyone. The changes implemented by the PEACH Club are include:

• Joining the Worcester Public School Health Council
• Bringing forth the idea of having smoothies as a lunch option
• Helping the Student Health Center increase their membership
• Donating crops to the school cafeteria for use in vegetarian pizza options, as well as donating to public and city food pantries
• Donating an active garden bed to the Elm Park Child Care Center for their use
• Volunteering with the Community Harvest Project and picking 2400 pounds of apples for them in the fall
• Most recently, the club arranged for a garden bed to be used by the Dream Center, an organization that provides care for mentally challenged adults
• Partnering with the Worcester Regional Environmental Council, Mustard Seed, and are working with Community Harvest Project on hunger issues.

In addition, PEACH initiated, with the assistance of the engineering students at Doherty High, a community garden shared by day care groups. During the summer concerts, this active group of students share produce from the garden with members of the community at large.

The students are energetic and truly enjoy making a difference in their community. Here’s what some of the students had to say. Marissa, a junior has been in PEACH for three years stated, “I enjoyed everything I experienced from PEACH, from building the garden, meeting new people in our community to making memories that will go on after I graduate. I also learned how to make healthy recipes with the food grown from our garden that can better the food at school and home.”

When I asked what differences they have made in the community. Chau, a sophomore and a second year student in PEACH echoed, “I’ve helped my community in many ways, from cleaning the streets to volunteering. I love it how the garden vegetables are donated to many places in the community. I feel so helpful! One of the more memorable events helping the community was when we picked 2,400 pounds of apples at the Chenney Orchards in North Grafton, Ma. and gave them to groups in the city.”

Another student, Emily, a junior and a third year in PEACH also spoke about helping out in the community. She spoke about donating food to the Mustard Seed, a soup kitchen in the Worcester area.

Summing up what the students learned by being members of PEACH, perhaps Bryan, a junior and also in his third year in PEACH said it best, “I learned the importance of teamwork and responsibility through hard work. By working in the garden, we all had to work together and find ways on how to maintain the garden in and out of school.”

These students are led by their dynamic health teacher and advisor Jose Garcia, who told me that last week PEACH had 45 students at the farm in North Grafton planting tomatoes, onions and squash for one of the food banks. Those vegetables will be harvested in the fall. The group has also been working on a heart trail, a fitness site for the community.

Colleen O’Brien the Director of Health and Physical Education for the Worcester Public Schools had high praise for Mr. Garcia.

“Mr. Garcia has fostered core health concepts with his students involved in PEACH that include health literacy, self-management skills, and health promotion. This tremendous opportunity for students teaches fundamental health concepts, promotes habits and conduct that enhance health and wellness and guides to help build a healthy school and community environment.”

Thank you PEACH for a job well done! 

 

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