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Meet Rachel Perry, Creator of CCS’ SAGE in the Classroom

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Rachel Perry has a unique benefit of being Food Service Director at Chattanooga Christian School (CCS): She’s a graduate of the school. Rachel, who joined SAGE in July 2021, created SAGE in the Classroom, her program where she collaborates with teachers to integrate culinary lessons into the curriculum, tailored to the subject or topic at hand.

She’s come full circle with SAGE in the Classroom. When she was a senior at CCS, she took part in a service project to give back to the community. “At the time, funding had been cut for arts programs in our area public schools,” Rachel explained. “So I partnered with our local art museum to develop art lessons that tied in with core subjects like math, science, English, and history to show how integral the arts were in the classroom.”

When Rachel returned to CCS more than 20 years later, and with a new role, she recognized that students thrive when they’re involved in experiential learning opportunities and wanted to fill the gap when it came to food education. “I feel strongly that our kitchens should be an extension of that learning, and we have an awesome responsibility to educate our communities about the role that food plays in their lives,” she said.

Rachel and her team strive every day to provide the CCS community with more than meals for lunch; they want to contribute to holistic education and enrich the lives of all community members. “Going into classrooms and teaching hands-on, multisensory lessons are opportunities to create memories students can look back on and to reach all the families in our community with a positive interaction with SAGE.”

Rachel creates each lesson individually, so when a teacher wants to partner with her for a learning opportunity, she adapts the lesson to fit the specific need. She connects her food teachings to a variety of subjects throughout multiple grade levels, such as measuring food in math class; discussing the cultural significance of a food or cuisine in history class; or demonstrating chemical reactions in cooking in science class. Often, students will get to create a dish or sample food.

So far, her personal favorite lesson she’s taught was on foods of South Asia and Diwali. “This was really impactive to the sixth graders in terms of trying new foods and understanding the cultural significance,” she noted. “They had such amazing questions for me and were so engaged in learning!”

Part of Rachel’s approach to tying food lessons into different subjects includes incorporating SAGE’s All Foods Fit nutrition philosophy — that there aren’t “good” or “bad” foods. “Kids face huge challenges from societal pressure around body image that can deeply impact self-esteem,” she explained. “Starting the discussion about food early in life is something I’ve become extremely passionate about, as I also struggled with these issues. I believe if I’d been educated about food and nutrition at an early age, my relationship with food and myself would’ve been drastically different to what it’s been for most of my life.”

Rachel shared, “Working at SAGE has changed the way I look at eating, nutrition, and my relationship with food. I love that we promote body positivity through awareness and education.”

The feedback on SAGE in the Classroom has been nothing short of positive, as it benefits the CCS community as a whole. Rachel mentioned teachers appreciate the support and resources it provides; students love the food-related experiences; parents enjoy making the SAGE recipes that Rachel sends home with students, fostering connection and memories; and the CCS faculty and staff value its community integration and enhancement of the overall school experience.

“Food is a universal language that opens doors to the world and yourself,” Rachel said, “and I want to share that with everyone I can.”

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