Elon Dining and the It Takes a Village Project

This past Wednesday night, Elon Dining teamed up with the “It Takes a Village” Project to present a Teaching Kitchen and Nutrition event for 250 children from the Alamance-Burlington School System.

The “It Takes a Village” Project is a joint effort between Elon students and community volunteers to provide weekly tutoring to students in the Alamance-Burlington School System. Started 10 years ago, the project began by providing support to students struggling to read, and has grown over the years to include lessons in math and science as well. Now, students meet with mentors for 3 different sessions throughout the year for a total of 18 weeks. Each week students in the program and their parents are also served a total of 500 free hot meals by Elon Dining and Elon University.

On Wednesday night, this partnership between Elon Dining and the “It Takes a Village” Project took a new form. Students from Alamance-Burlington Schools, along with their parents and mentors, were invited to a large scale Teaching Kitchen and Nutrition event organized by Laura Thompson, Elon Dining District Manager, and Dr. Jean Rattigan-Rohr, Executive Director, Community Partnerships and Director of the Center for Access and Success.

Thompson felt that Elon Dining’s participation in the “It Takes a Village” Project could expand much further beyond providing meals, and decided to approach Dr. Rohr about adding a culinary education aspect to the meal that could fit into the students’ ongoing tutoring and education. Thompson felt inspired by Dr. Rohr, saying that “When you meet Dr. Rohr you will see that her large personality is always thinking big.” Thompson, working alongside Dr. Rohr and the Elon Dining Culinary and Nutrition teams, organized a night to remember.

Students were divided up into two different classes. A Teaching Kitchen, comprised of students from 6th-12th grades, was led by Elon Dining’s Executive Chef Jay Vetter and his culinary team. Chef Vetter and his team walked students through how to scale and prepare 3 different recipes, blending together cooking and mathematics into a interactive experience for students. At the end of the class, students took home their prepared dry ingredients in mason jars so that they could finish preparing a meal at home.

A different group of kindergarten through 5th grade students worked with Amanda Cerra, Elon Dining’s Registered Dietitian. Students learned about the nutrition behind their favorite fruits and vegetables, tasting prepared fruit and vegetable skewers. While they learned, students had fun coloring fruit and vegetable headbands and playing games with their mentors. At the end of their event, students were invited to fill their bags with fruits and vegetables from a special “Farmer’s Market” table, which was filled with fresh produce provided by FreshPoint Raleigh.

Both events ended at the table, with students enjoying a hot meal with their families and mentors provided by Elon Dining. Dr. Rohr summed up the night perfectly. “This partnership between [Elon Dining’s] employees and Elon’s “It Takes a Village” Project is simply wonderful,” she sad. “Everyone, from our District Manager to our executive chef, and all the other folks involved in our ‘using cooking to teach math initiative’ immediately grabbed hold of the vision. They have all eagerly decided to do their part to make the effort a success. We are looking forward to seeing where the initiative goes from here!”