One high school in the Freehold Regional District boasts a commercial kitchen, café, and culinary arts program. Another has greenhouses, and an animal and botanical science academy program.
The two – Freehold Borough High School and Freehold Township High School – share a program, “Food Preparation Through Community Partnership,” that provides classroom and career experience by combining student efforts. In short, students at one school grow produce, and at the other, students cook it.
“It’s really what education should be about – learning applied to a task,” said Freehold High School’s Chef Toni Kozak, who teaches in the Culinary Arts Academy there, in a school district video about the project. “Project-based learning, here we are,” she said.
The idea bloomed in May 2011, as a collaborative effort among teachers at the six-school regional district’s Culinary Arts Academy and Animal and Botanical Science Academy. The goal was to bring together the programs, and provide “real life” experiences for students in the high-demand, high-skill and high-wage career areas of food production and preparation.
Freehold Township students grow vegetables and herbs in refurbished greenhouses. Produce is then brought to Freehold High School, where students design recipes and prepare food in the school’s commercial kitchen and “Five Star Café,” which is open to the public. Excess produce has been donated to a local food pantry in Freehold Borough.
More than 300 district students take part. The video of the program, on the Freehold Regional district web site, shows dozens of students in white chef’s hats watching a demonstration, then lining up, with plates in hand, to taste the end result.
Wegmans Food Markets’ Executive Leadership Program provided expertise and instruction in the past. While not actively involved now, they are still available as a resource if students and staff choose to reach out to them.
School officials are proud of the program that, along with cooking and growing produce, teaches students about budgeting; inventory management; sustainability; nutrition and more.
“These hands-on experiences, you really get to see that it’s like,” said one 12th-grader. “It’s not, ‘you’re going to sit down in class one day, you’re going to write ten worksheets, or you’re going to write an essay.’ You’re actually doing the stuff you’re learning.”
Contact: Rebecca Morton, Communications and District Projects Coordinator, [email protected]
Recipient of the Exemplary Program designation in NJSBA’s 2013 School Leader Awards program