Teri Rutledge and her team of fellow Villa Academy teachers are committed to educating their fourth grade students about the issue of hunger. For children at this private Catholic school in Seattle, the learning experience has been eye-opening and rewarding.
At the beginning of the year, Ms. Rutledge starts by teaching her class about the reasons people in their community are hungry. Once they understand some of the causes of hunger, they engage in an ongoing discussion of how these same children and families can gain access to the food they need.
“We teach kids that hunger is a real problem,” Ms. Rutledge says.
Wanting to give students a more complete understanding of the need for nutritious food among their peers who aren’t as fortunate, Ms. Rutledge has made it her goal to provide real-world experiences she hopes will instill a desire to help others throughout their lives. This includes field trips to Food Lifeline, participation in the SNAP Challenge as well as volunteer shifts at their local “giving garden,” where the students plant and harvest fresh produce of their choosing. Her last class was especially interested in growing root vegetables, like radishes.
“The kids really love it,” Ms. Rutledge says. “It gives them a sense that they’re helping the community.”
In the spring, the lessons on hunger conclude with a special fundraising dinner benefitting Food Lifeline. Here, students — who also prepare and serve the meals for parents, teachers and fellow classmates — have the opportunity to share everything they’ve learned about hunger and how to solve it. Last school year, they raised $1,300 for those in need.
“Parents love this part of the curriculum,” Ms. Rutledge says. “They come to the dinner and are able to see their children act as leaders. We’ve had tremendous support from parents."