High School Students Passionate About Produce

More than twenty teens participating in he Regional Occupational Program (ROP) Garden class at Renaissance High School in Watsonville became the first group of student Nutrition Ambassadors certified through Second Harvest’s Passion For Produce program.

Renaissance High School students and staff

Combining nutrition education with the distribution of fresh fruits and vegetables, Passion For Produce uses peer-to-peer communication to spread the word about the importance of eating healthy and maintaining an active lifestyle. Renaissance is the 26th site and first high school in the program.

The partnership grew out of the Youth Empowerment Program at Renaissance, sponsored by the California Department of Public Health’s Network for a Healthy California. Working in conjunction with Second Harvest, the project was designed to educate high school students about improving the health of their school and community. One of the recommendations included using social outreach to introduce fellow students to healthy habits. Thus, the first Passion For Produce program for high school students came to fruition.

Second Harvest CEO, Willy Elliott-McCrea, greeted the students. As they headed out for a tour of the warehouse he told the group, “When we give of ourselves to others, we will receive more than we could ever imagine. I am so excited to see you getting involved in helping to teach your peers the importance of eating right.”

After the tour, the students, school administration and Second Harvest staff shared a healthy breakfast prepared by Americorps volunteers, Jake Harder and Adriana Zollo, including a veggie scramble, apple pear compote and fresh fruit.

Teresa Moran & students

Renaissance High School was established in September of 1971, and remains the only continuation high school in PVUSD. It has been designated by the State Superintendent of Public Instruction as one of the 20 Model Continuation High Schools in California. The school maintains small class sizes with lots of individual attention and an emphasis on counseling, guidance and career pathways.

Joel Amrani, Coordinator/Counselor/Staff Support and Lead Teacher at Renaissance thanked all the students for their dedication to the program. He commended Second Harvest’s Nutrition Programs Group for reaching out to the school and community. Renaissance High School Principal, Artemisa Cortez, Mark Hodges, Director and James Howes, Assistant Director of the Regional Occupational Program were also there to celebrate the achievement.

Mark Hodges, Director, Regional Operational Program & Shani Wertz, ROP Garden instructor

Thanking the students for their enthusiasm, ROP Garden instructor, Shanti Wertz, talked about the value of knowing how to prepare healthy food and making it taste good. As far as the kids were concerned, they were happy to have a chance to enhance their work in the school garden through their participation in the Passion For Produce program.  The curriculum was presented over six weeks by Eva Holt-Rusmore, Nutrition Programs Coordinator at Second Harvest.

Now that they have completed their training, the students will be able to oversee food distributions at the school, give nutrition presentations and demonstrate healthy recipes that incorporate the produce being distributed.

As the students received their certificates and gifts, Teresa Moran, Senior Nutrition Programs Manager at Second Harvest, told them, “You are opening the door to everyone else. You can bring this message to your peers better than we can. You have something new to share.”

Second Harvest’s Chief Operations and Programs Officer, Brooke Johnson, wrapped up the celebration by saying, “You are the future leaders of our community and we thank you for your time as volunteers.”

Second Harvest plans to bring more high schools on board soon, to provide as many students as possible with the opportunity to make a difference in their community through nutrition outreach.

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