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Posted May 13, 2013
From "Dirt to Plate" - All Children's and Kohls Promote Healthy Eating

 Fit4AllKids Coordinator Kellie Gilmore with Pinellas Park Middle School teacher Jamie Colver
(l-r) Fit4AllKids Coordinator Kellie Gilmore with Pinellas Park Middle School teacher Jamie Colver
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PINELLAS PARK - The wooden sign conveys only part of the story. In big letters set against a painted blue sky, puffy clouds and a white picket fence, it reads "Pinellas Park Middle School Community Garden."

But the real story unfolds just beyond the fertile, well-tended patch of dirt below, inside the bustling Family Consumer Science classroom. A special project is in progress with expert guidance from teacher Jamie Colver - and helping hands from members of All Children's Fit4AllKids staff and the sponsorship of Kohl's Cooks for Kids.

Students were busy cooking what they've been cultivating in the ground as a follow-up to ACH's special "Dirt to Plate" Newspaper in Education section, published last month in the Tampa Bay Times.

Heads of cabbage from the garden were sliced and diced, and mixed in with other ingredients to create healthy and delicious Teriyaki Lettuce Wraps, using the shredded cabbage, mixed veggies, rice noodles and ground turkey breast to fill each lettuce leaf.

This is the third year Colver and her students have maintained the garden, but the first that they've cooked their own food from it. The Pinellas Park Middle School garden was featured in the Dirt to Plate issue, which led Fit4AllKids Coordinator Kellie Gilmore to extend an offer to create an all-day culinary event for the 120-plus students in Colver's four Family classes this past Monday.

"Ms. Gilmore was awesome to offer this cooking event when she put out Dirt to Plate," said Colver, whose work with her students and the garden were featured in the section. "I said, 'Oh my gosh, my kids will love that.' And this is something they've been excited about and looking forward to. It was kind of neat to show the kids, 'Look guys, here's what we grew, and it's going to go into this recipe.' They're just loving it."

The event served as an ideal end-of-year activity, allowing the students to harvest what they've been growing - and see the fruits, or in this case veggies, of their labors.

"It's been going great - we have nothing left," said Gilmore, as the final session began. "They eat everything they cook."

The students went right to work, hovering over an array of stoves and pans, preparing their food and learning the value of eating smart as they went.

"It's a better way to save money," said seventh grader Liz Hyatt. "And it's cool cooking."

Amid the daily diet of math, science and composition, consider it a valuable lesson learned.