It Starts at the Top

“We love Will and his team!” Principal Tiffany Lizer of Katherine Edwards Middle School says emphatically. “Our parents, students, and staff do too.”

The Whittier academic institution began partnering with The Whole Child’s CalFresh nutrition program at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In a hurry, planned in-person parent education classes had to become virtual, just like all other classes and activities. Will Torres, CalFresh Healthy Living Program Coordinator for The Whole Child, didn’t miss a beat, working with his health educators and the KEMS administrators to make sure all parents would have access to the five-week seminar.

“Our district office had called us asking for schools that were interested in hosting family nights for nutrition education,” explains Principal Lizer. “Once they started up on Zoom, our families loved these events—our staff even attended too.”

The Nutrition 5 curriculum is specifically designed for parents and educates them on how to plan healthy meals, shop on a budget, understand what a food label is really telling you, and many more helpful skills to keep the whole family nutritionally on track.

Consider Principal Lizer a top fan of the curriculum: “Over just a couple of months, they taught our families so much about healthy eating habits and making healthier choices. I love that they gave us cookbooks to distribute to all of our families,” she says.

The supplemental curriculum is a huge help to the KEMS faculty, as well. “Our Physical Education teachers touch on nutrition,” she says, “but The Whole Child providing a parent-focused class to support that is so important. Our parent advisory groups all attended and gave incredible feedback.”

“We’re thrilled to be offering our programs in person again,” says Will Torres, “but it was helpful in those early days to be able to offer our weekly classes and cooking demonstrations virtually. English and Spanish classes were offered simultaneously with the use of breakout rooms – that’s something we weren’t able to do in person.”

The KEMS parents responded with enthusiasm.

Both Principal Lizer and Will are excited about continuing and expanding the program.

“We’re looking for new ways to evolve the program and continue to engage our parents,” says Principal Lizer.

For the new school year The Whole Child’s CalFresh Healthy Living Program plans to offer both nutrition education and physical activity classes with Katherine Edwards Middle School.

“It’s great to have the support of not just the parents and faculty, but also the head of the school we’re in,” says Will. “Principal Lizer has been a terrific example of that – when students and parents see that nutrition education is a priority at the highest level, it really makes an impact. It starts from the top.”