Jennifer Mampara Testimony – DCPS Performance Oversight Hearing – February 26, 2019

Jennifer Mampara

FRESHFARM FoodPrints Program Director

Testimony on the DC Council Committee of the Whole and Committee on Education

Performance Hearing on the District of Columbia Public Schools

February 26, 2019

John A. Wilson Building, Room 500

Thank you to the Committee for holding this hearing and listening to community voices on our DC public schools.

I am Jennifer Mampara, the Director of Education at FRESHFARM and manager of the FoodPrints program. We currently partner with 13 DCPS elementary schools across the city to provide regular hands-on food, gardening, and nutrition classes throughout the school year. We have developed curriculum that is aligned with local and national science, math, ELA and health standards, as well as with the DCPS curricular scope and sequence at each grade level and local Environmental Literacy goals.

I am here today to share with the Committee our successes in our long-term partnership with DCPS that helps meet academic goals and the requirements of the DC Healthy Schools Act; provides opportunities for exciting, hands-on learning; and models new ways to engage with academic content for teachers. This has been an incredibly productive and successful partnership that began in 2009 and has resulted in FoodPrints programming that currently serves more than 4,500 DCPS students, 66% of whom are economically disadvantaged. We are reaching about 20% of the DCPS elementary school population at this time, and an additional 18 DC public schools have reached out to us requesting programming for their school communities.

This partnership has also resulted in DCPS school administrators, teachers, parents and students that express tremendous interest in sustained, academically integrated food, nutrition and environmental education at their schools. Year after year, many of our partner school principals choose to direct discretionary funds in their school budgets to contribute to the cost of FoodPrints programming for their schools. Year after year, parent teacher associations dedicate a significant portion of the funds they raise to make this programming possible.

An additional result is a unique and exciting collaboration with the DCPS school meals program in which recipes that students have been studying, cooking and eating during their FoodPrints sessions are prepared from scratch with the support of a chef coach once a week and served in our partner school cafeterias. This project began when the DCPS Food and Nutrition Services Director (Mr. Rob Jaber) noticed that when asking students what they would like to have more of in their school lunches, there were a few outlying schools with students requesting kale salad and apple beet salad instead of pizza and hamburgers. These outliers were students at FoodPrints schools, and since then, Mr. Jaber has been unwavering in his support for sustaining and growing the program.

In order to measure and communicate this success, we partner with researchers at George Mason University and Columbia University. Last spring, one of our evaluators, Dr. Katie Kerstetter, surveyed 150 DCPS administrators and teachers about the value FoodPrints programming brings to their schools and students.

The majority of respondents said that FoodPrints programming is “very important” or “important” (a 4 or 5 on a 5-point scale) in providing:

  • Academic Support
  • Family Engagement
  • Nutrition Education and School Gardens Engagement
  • Social and Emotional Learning

This is some of the feedback we have received from classroom teachers:

“FoodPrints allows my students to access our unit themes in new ways. It allows my students to see how our ELA and Math units align to real-life situations.” – Teacher, Tyler

“FoodPrints is designed to  allow students to revisit the concepts and topics from class and to see them from a different perspective.” – Teacher, Francis Stevens

“Families who don’t usually participate are given an opportunity to engage in FoodPrints and feel a part of the community,” – Teacher, Marie Reed

“Many of my students have tried and enjoyed foods they didn’t try before and/or thought they didn’t like previously… FoodPrints perfectly fits early childhood education as it’s all about trying new things and investigating possibilities.” – Teacher, Francis Stevens

“[Through FoodPrints,] students learn to have more independence and how to hold themselves accountable.” – Teacher, Kimball  

“[Through FoodPrints, students are] working collaboratively and working out a plan.” – Teacher, Tyler

“Taking risks and trying new things.” – Teacher, Peabody

“Building the self-confidence to try new things in a safe environment.” – Teacher, School Within School

This is some of the feedback from school principals:

“Our students and families really feel this is an integrated approach to learn about healthy food and nutrition, where food comes from, and how to grow your own food.” 

“It’s critical that this kind of program gets into schools across the city, regardless of the economic status of their neighborhood, and that it is sustained.“  

“{FoodPrints supports] negotiating peer relationships in managing the kitchen, the tools and the garden”

This is some of the feedback from parents:

“FoodPrints has helped create the collaborative, creative environment that fosters growth, curiosity and learning, and it is part of the reason that we continue to be such happy members of our school family.”

“FoodPrints has transformed my daughter’s perception of food and living organisms. As a volunteer, I had a wonderful experience learning to make healthy meals for my family. I can’t wait to participate again!”

“If DC can do one easy, tangible thing to foster a healthy community, supporting this program is it. It requires so little and it teaches so much. I feel incredibly fortunate that my children are getting a great early foundation in healthy living through it. I hope you not only continue to support this program, but commit to robustly expanding FoodPrints so every DC child has access to it. “

At at time when over 30 percent of our youth aged 17-24 are ineligible for military service due to obesity, and 1 in 3 children born today will develop diabetes, food education at an early age is critical. I thank DC Public Schools for supporting the long-running partnership between schools and the FRESHFARM FoodPrints program, and I encourage the Council to recognize the importance of this partnership as a strength of DCPS that deserves ongoing financial support from the city.

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