Building Better Health: Woodbury University Architecture Students Partner with National Health Foundation’s Health Academy Students to Bring School-Based Farm Stand to Life

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There was a time when Thomas Jefferson High School (TJHS) in Historic South Central Los Angeles students only had a snack bar with the usual not-so-healthy snacks and drinks available. Fast-forward to May 5th, 2017 when a group of students from National Health Foundation’s Health Academy, in partnership with Woodbury University’s architecture students, unveiled 4 full-sized structures designed to improve access to healthy snacks and foods on the campus.

National Health Foundation’s (NHF) Health Academy students are a group of engaged youth who are motivated by a desire to improve access to healthy food and beverages for their school community and are mentored by NHF staff. Community partnerships such as the one with Woodbury University help to deepen the integration of the students’ vision with the community.

Students noticed that food left over from the Breakfast in the Classroom (BIC) program was going to waste and students in need of a mid-morning or mid-afternoon snack were doing without. They originally devised a clever system of baskets in each classroom to recoup leftover food and make it available throughout the day. The success of those Health Academy Mini Farm Stand baskets led to a far greater vision: Farm Stand 2.0.

Woodbury University Architecture students worked hand in hand with the Health Academy to design flexible and mobile structures that could serve to showcase fresh, healthy food options as well as to give students opportunities to deepen their understanding of how nutrition and health are correlative while engaging with one another. The tall order was met and surpassed! Architecture students met with the Health Academy students a total of 5 times to get input on the projects, including a field trip to Woodbury University in late March to tour the campus, learn about architecture and do some hands-on work on the structures.

The four structures that were unveiled on the TJHS campus include:

  • Health Academy Link – a seven-part structure that interlocks together and includes a space for a mobile garden, fruit storage (from BIC), additional seating and general storage. This structure was also designed to mimic the Los Angeles Skyline when all parts are linked together.
  • Meal Barrow – Structure was made to address students’ concern about not having enough lines during lunch. The Meal Barrow serves as an additional “grab and go” cart that cafeteria staff can use to provide lunches to students. Architecture students worked closely with cafeteria manager to ensure the design would work with school requirements.
  • Multipurpose cart –originally modeled after a bicycle, this structure is meant to store food to sell during football games and other school events. This structure also features a whiteboard as well as a place to display signage.
  • Bento Box – a “mobile lounge” that features interacting parts that allow the user to adjust seating for group learning and has charging ports for mobile devices.

Other partners who have been instrumental in the Health Academy’s work since its inception in 2013 were on hand to celebrate the unveiling including The Los Angeles Unified School District Food Services Department, LURN, LA Food Policy Council and University of California Cooperative Extension (UC Agriculture and Natural Resources). Faculty, staff, as well as friends and family welcomed the addition of the structures to the campus, “We are so pleased to have the Health Academy on campus. This partnership broadened the students’ awareness of innovative ways of delivering health to the community while exploring exciting real-world career opportunities. It has been a win-win-win!” said TJHS Principal Mr. Gonzales.

For National health Foundation, the successful implementation of Farm Stand 2.0 served to underscore the value of youth engagement in communities that are under-resourced. “We believe the youth engagement model is one of the most effective ways of bringing about healthy change in a community. The youth are aware, connected, enthusiastic and quickly understand that they can bring about lasting positive change in their community. This group has made healthy food and beverage choices available to their student body of 700. The positive impact of that will absolutely ripple out into the community,” added NHF president and CEO, Kelly Bruno-Nelson.

Fellow Thomas Jefferson High School students were enthusiastic about the structures and their contents, “It’s great to have more fresh food options on campus. I really like the Meal Barrow idea! Spending less time in the lunch line is great because we only have 30 minutes for lunch,” said a TJHS student.