Meet Kelly Cronin. She’s a culinary school graduate who traded the kitchen for a classroom, teaching fourth-grade special education at Salem’s Witchcraft Heights Elementary School (WHES).
Her fellow teachers describe her as a tireless anti-hunger advocate. In fact, much of her work to address hunger in the classrooms takes place outside school hours. Champions like Kelly are always going that extra mile!
Seeing there was a need, and understanding what a difference just a bit of guidance and a few basic cooking skills can make for families’ overall health and nutrition, especially in lower-income households, she was inspired to advocate for the “Cooking Matters” program at her school.
With her school's support, family nutrition classes are now offered to student’s families! Parents learn fundamental lessons like knife skills, reading ingredient labels, and making a healthy meal for a family of four on a $10 budget. After each class, everyone gets a bag of groceries so they can practice the recipes taught that day. Kelly knows these classes are important for helping families bridge the gap between school meals and home meals.
Kelly’s other passion at WHES is the gardening club. For her, “there is nothing better than seeing the curiosity and pure joy of discovery when children are in the garden.” Students clearly feel the same way. The club is so in demand that she had to start a second one! The club allows student gardners to learn about maintaining the garden throughout the year, as well as plants, soil, insects, and nutrition.
Harvests from the garden have been used in school lunches and taken home by students and school staff. We’ve also heard that it was Kelly who single-handedly designed the thirty-eight bed garden and provided most of the financing. There’s that extra mile again!
To get your own taste of Kelly’s amazing work to fight child hunger at WHES, check out this video of a “Tasting Extravaganza” she helped organize last year in the school’s cafeteria. These events are learning labs that try out new recipes and new foods - introducing kids to different ways of filling up.
As one of Project Bread’s 2019 Teacher Champions, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the American Federation of Teachers-Massachusetts are happy to celebrate Kelly and the eleven other recipients of the Teacher Champion Award!
Learn more about our 2019/20 Initiative to address hunger in the classroom with our partners and the amazing work that Teacher Champions across Massachusetts are doing to address hunger in the classroom, helping students to reach their fullest potential.