Fundraiser to aid anti-obesity program

Parents and adults are rallying around a program that teaches city public school children about healthy eating, cultivating gardens and environmental stewardship.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, the adults will get together at the Golden Triangle at 330 N. Clark St. to raise money for the Organic Schools Projects, a local organization that aims to “change the way kids eat, one school at a time.”

OPS officials hope to raise almost $20,000 through a wine reception and silent auction. All the money will go toward supporting the program, organizers say.

The Organic Schools Project aims to provide a healthy organic breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack to students at Louisa May Alcott Elementary School in Lincoln Park.

According to the OSP website, the meals at the school are home-cooked using “made-from-scratch, locally and sustainable grown foods.” Also, the cafeteria has several trash receptacles, “one for trash, one for compost,” thereby producing “a zero waste cafeteria.”

After meals, the students are encouraged to “think and feel and describe what they ate and where it came from,” says Maureen George, the project manager of Organic School Project.

The project “takes a holistic approach” to teaching students about their relationship to the earth, George says, and the curriculum includes “breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises” intended to reduce stress in the classroom and let students further connect with the food they eat.

In teaching the students about the origins of their food, the project also involves cultivating and caring for a garden in which the students can grow their own organic vegetables. In growing their own vegetables, George says the students learn about their relationship to the earth and to be environmentally aware in the choices they make about the food they eat.

Greg Christian, a professional chef, created OSP after witnessing his daughter’s health battles. The program fights childhood obesity and other illnesses that can be linked to bad diets. A study conducted by OSP and the Benedictine University of Lisle found the Body Mass Indexes (BMIs) - a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to both males and females - conducted during the 2006 – 07 school year, decreased. Various beneficial behavioural changes were also noted.

 “It’s a fabulous program,” says Jenny Vincent, a social studies teacher at Louisa May Alcott, the only school in the city to embrace the entire program. Officials hope to expand to other schools. The project also provides after school programs and snacks for students at Lowell Elementary School in Humbolt Park, and gardens at both Drummond and Inter-American Elementary magnet schools in Bucktown and Lakeview, respectively.

The fund-raiser is open to the public and will feature local wines and hors d’oeuvres from several caterers. Cobalt & The Hired Guns are expected to play an hour-long acoustic set while guests bid on items from local businesses in the silent auction. A donation of $50 is requested.