In the spring of 2011 the founders of Get Healthy Dallas, Stacy Cherones and Robert Foster, conducted a research project in partnership with the Turner Twelve of Lincoln High School and the Maquire Center for Ethics at Southern Methodist University. The Ethics Design Team at Maquire, a select group of undergraduate students, wanted to study the phenomenon of food deserts, a phrase that refers to communities with a lack of access to fresh, healthy foods at grocery stores or other retail outlets.
Several policy proposals emerged from this research and the student feedback about their interaction with healthy foods. One proposal was to launch an entrepreneurial culinary arts academy to give students hands-on experience preparing foods while training for a vocation in culinary arts or for further education. In 2012 Get Healthy Dallas partnered with BC Workshop to engage the community in a project to design the kitchens and restaurant for the academy that would reflect the interests of the LHS students and the unique history of the school and its community.
As things progressed, DISD went through significant changes in leadership and the principal at LHS changed. Nevertheless, the district and the school’s leadership, including school board representative Bernadette Nutall, stayed committed to the development of the culinary arts program and invested $2.25 million in constructing a 5400 square foot space that included a classroom, professional kitchen, and indoor and outdoor dining areas. Today, students in the culinary arts program put their hands on real food, learn culinary arts skills, and envision opportunities to run their own restaurants in the future. GHD is happy to have played its part in the development of the culinary arts program at LHS.
As GHD transitioned its energy from the development of the culinary arts program at LHS, the organization invested in the development of community gardens. Through hiring individuals trained in urban farming and gardening, GHD has worked on several successful gardening projects within South Dallas/Fair Park. For example, GHD worked with Alendra Lyons at Mill Gardens to install raised bed gardens on her site, growing pepper plants, tomatoes, and cucumbers, installing an efficient watering system for the summer heat of Dallas, Texas and developing an eco-friendly pesticide technique to deal with, especially, spider mites. GHD also partnered with Earth Healthy of Dallas to install a wicking bed and three raised beds at Oliver Claire Elementary School in Dallas with the aim of having students experience the value of growing organic foods. Most recently: DBC and Mata.