Gravesend school opens kitchen classroom and greenhouse

December 12, 2013 Jaime DeJesus
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A greenhouse grows in Gravesend.

On December 9, P.S. 216 celebrated the opening of its kitchen classroom and greenhouse, courtesy of Edible Schoolyard of NYC, an organization that partners with public schools to build gardens.

The facility, which cost several million dollars to build, was jam-packed with politicians, faculty and students all checking out the new digs and sampling the healthy cuisine prepared by world class chefs.

“This is a dream come true. The detail and the beauty of the building are just phenomenal,” said Principal of P.S. 216 Celia Kaplinsky. “What it means in a building like this is that celebrating eating and cooking, and learning about them, is something we value.”

Although it wasn’t cheap, Councilmember Domenic Recchia believes that the project was a vital and worthy investment for the students’ future. “The borough president and I put millions of dollars into this project. It’s a project that we believe in,” he explained. “We believe in it because our children need to be educated on the right way to eat. It is a major problem in the city. And P.S. 216 is at the forefront of educating children on how to eat better, live better, have a better quality of life.”

Borough President Marty Markowitz warned children to steer clear of some of their favorite snacks, which could include unhealthy chemicals. “This program is very successful. The issue of obesity is one of the greatest challenges we face in health today, although I don’t speak to you as a skinny person today,” joked Markowitz. “What you’re growing will give you respect for nature and teach you how to eat better.”

Just a few short years ago, the area where the greenhouse and kitchen stand was just an asphalt parking lot. But now the garden features all types of fresh fruit and vegetables. In addition, over 30 students will be able to be in the kitchen at the same time to learn how to prepare healthy meals.

Once the ribbon was cut, those in attendance entered the new building which featured lots of color and natural light, as well as signs and diagrams which highlighted nutritional lessons for the students, and plenty of food.

One of the chefs in attendance was former student Glenn Harris, co-owner of restaurant The Smith, which has locations in Midtown, Union Square and Lincoln Square. His involvement in the project was years in the making. “I graduated from P.S. 216 in the early 80s,” he recalled. “My fourth grade teacher Ms. Adler told me about the Edible Schoolyard about two years ago but the timing wasn’t right for me.”

But now that the stars aligned, Harris is thrilled to be a part of the final product. “I always wanted to give back,” he said. “That’s what my life is about. It’s incredible for the kids, their parents and the community.” His restaurant featured Mini Popovers with scrambled eggs.

Since she took the role as principal, one of Kaplinsky’s main goals has been having her students eat healthier. “What I brought into the school was the children can only eat healthy snacks,” she said. “We do not bring sugary drinks or anything.”

“To all the boys and girls, this is a great program,” continued Recchia. “We need to help make it grow and work together. There are wonderful educators. We have to make sure garden keeps growing.”

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