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How to Get Kids to Build Pizza from the Dirt Up

By Chris Privett | July 29, 2015 | Explore NC

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Sometimes a child will say something so brilliant, so transformatively insightful, that I wonder for a moment if that child is quoting one of history’s great philosophers. And sometimes I wonder if it’s a quote from a Doors song, it can be hard to tell.

But in this case, the little boy’s brilliance was entirely his own: “Cheese smells good and stinks at the same time.”

Jim Morrison couldn’t have said it better, my young friend.

“Dirt Made My Pizza”

I pondered that boy’s passage through the doors of perception at the Oakview Recreation Center in High Point this month when I visited FoodCorps’ “Dirt Made My Pizza” Camp. FoodCorps – a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy – hosts about 50 school children from the Oakview community during the summer months, teaching them about food systems, nutrition, environmental issues, even science and geometry.

The community garden at Oakview Rec Center is the focus of the camp. The garden – part of Nourishing North Carolina, a statewide BCBSNC/NC Recreation and Park Association initiative to establish community gardens in every county in the state – allows area residents to rent a plot to grow their own fruits and vegetables. Gardeners are encouraged to donate 10% of their yield to local food banks. Part of the Oakview garden was set aside for the students to grow the ingredients for Pizza Camp.

Since the garden was planted in May, the kids have learned how to apply their school lessons on the area and perimeter of the garden boxes, how to plant seeds and nurture seedlings, how to identify food groups, and why home-grown foods are more nutritious and more environmentally friendly than most of what we find in the grocery store.

I watched the kids roll out the pizza dough (not surprisingly, a couple of them couldn’t resist flinging the whirling discs into the air), chop the vegetables they’d grown, grate the cheese they learned how to make, pour the sauce ingredients into the blender, assemble their pizzas, then place them into the oven. About 20 restless minutes later, the campers feasted on pizza grown from dirt. The courteous students didn’t forget their guest, and I was able to sample the fruits – and vegetables – of their labors.

The pizza was outstanding. As I’ve learned during the writing of some food-related blog posts in recent months, locally grown ingredients really do taste better.

Who doesn't love fresh baked pizza?
Who doesn’t love fresh baked pizza?

Local Tastes, Local Lessons

Another advantage of locally grown ingredients is that they don’t have to travel very far to reach the people who need them. And there are a lot of people who need them in the Triad.

FoodCorps is taking a special interest in the Greensboro/High Point area. Earlier this year, the Food Research and Action Center named Greensboro/High Point our nation’s hungriest metro area, with the highest proportion of people having trouble securing enough nutritious food to stay healthy.

FoodCorps Pizza Camp CROPPED 6
All the kids got in on the action.

If you want to make a difference, the best place to do it is where help is most needed. And FoodCorps is determined to de-throne Greensboro/High Point from the hungriest cities list.

As I talked with some of the students and watched their excitement as they prepared their pizzas, it dawned on me that “hungriest cities” is a polite way of saying “hungriest children.” Hunger is a personal crisis, not simply an economic or sociological one.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina takes a comprehensive approach to the pursuit of its mission to improve the health and well-being of all who live in our state. The Nourishing North Carolina campaign and FoodCorps’ efforts are vitally important because hungry communities aren’t healthy communities.

I encourage you to learn more about the efforts of Nourishing North Carolina and FoodCorps to alleviate hunger in our state and find out how you can help make life better for all of us.