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Wagner Middle Schoolers Go Green at Student-Run Farmers Market

By DNAinfo Staff on February 4, 2013 7:59am

UPPER EAST SIDE — The time has come, the schoolkids said, to talk of many things: of stews and chips and salty snacks, of cabbages and wings.

And a handful of Robert Wagner Middle School sixth graders did just that Thursday evening, running a locally-sourced farm stand and demonstrating healthy recipes in their campus auditorium. The event was part of GrowNYC's Healthy Kids Healthy Schools program.

Wagner's two, 30-student sixth grade health classes get nutrition and cooking lessons from GrowNYC instructors every week — and Thursday was the kids' chance to apply their new knowledge, organizers said.

Joziel Vargas, who manned the cash box at the stand, said he loves the program so much that he wants to do it again next year.

"I like being helpful and helping people with stuff," said Vargas, 11. "And I've learned how to cook and the facts about transfats and sodium — the stuff you're not supposed to eat and the stuff you're supposed to eat."

For Teyana McKnight, 11, one of the best parts of the program is learning about entrepreneurship.

"I like selling stuff," she said. "When I was 5 or 6, we had a sale in front of our building and we made $40 — it was so fun."

McKnight enjoyed learning in a hands-on way by cooking in class, she said.

"Everybody is always doing something and we always get to try it," she said.

Mike Tauber, who teaches health classes and others at Wagner, said the program has kick-started kids' interest in nutrition — and got them to go above and beyond when it comes to eating their veggies.

"They'll tell other kids what's good and what's bad to eat," said Tauber, 37. "Parents come to me and say that the kids go home and want them to make the salad from class."

One parent of a Wagner seventh grader said she hopes that the presence of this program in the school can break her child of his bad dining habit — which includes predilections for pizza, tacos and macaroni and cheese.

"Right now I give him money for food, and he'll go to the store and get soda," said Lisa Papathanasiou, 48. "But when you see this stuff, it makes you want to eat it — and eat healthfully."

David Saphire, program coordinator for the organization's Learn It Grow It Eat It Program, said he couldn't be happier with reactions from his students at Wagner.

"They're really enthusiastic," he said. "They're kids with great energy who are just open to new ideas and open to new food."