Meet the teachers of The Charlie Cart Program

“As a dietitian, working in school nutrition is such a dream. Every day I get the chance to help mold current and future eating habits, whether it’s through school lunch, taste tests, or in-class cooking demonstrations.”
 
 

Brianna Dumas, RDN, LD

Wellness and Farm to School Dietitian
Burke County Public Schools
Waynesboro, GA

Background

I graduated with a BS in Nutrition and Food Science from Georgia Southern University in 2013. Upon graduation, I began working under Burke County School Nutrition Director, Donna Martin, as the Wellness and Farm to School Dietitian. As a dietitian, working in school nutrition is such a dream. Every day I get the chance to help mold current and future eating habits, whether it’s through school lunch, taste tests, or in-class cooking demonstrations

How are you using the cart and curriculum?

We are teaching cooking classes  throughout an entire school district. Each school has the cart for a month at a time, and teachers reserve a cooking class in advance. In the first month, we had 35 sign ups to use the cart! We are working our way through the entire curriculum.  

Children reached by The Charlie Cart Program:

K-5: 2,300
Middle school: 1,100
High school: 1,100

What do you like best about the Charlie Cart tools and materials?

I love that the Charlie Cart incorporates simple recipes with age-old techniques and tools – for example, the mortar and pestle is always a great learning tool, and the lemon/lime reamer is very simple but very fun for the kids. 

What’s the early feedback about the Charlie Cart?

Everyone has LOVED this program. Teachers love it for two reasons: it is a nontraditional way to teach the concepts kids are learning in the classroom, and it is a reward incentive for good behavior. 100% of my students loved this experience, too. In just two months, we completed over 30 lessons. I have had numerous students try something for the first time and love it!

Favorite Charlie Cart lesson?

My favorite lesson is the Rustic Tomato Sauce. Not only is it the easiest, but the kids are always so shocked by how much they love it. When I introduce this recipe, their faces look so let down because they don’t think it’s that “cool” – but we always end with kids raving about it and asking for more. I have a lot of students tell me that they go home and make it with their family!

Charlie Cart Project note:

Brianna has the energy of 10 people and her enthusiasm is infectious!

She has created a whole system to sign up classes for Charlie Cart lessons and move the cart from school to school, and she has come up with ingenious lesson modifications to save prep and class time. We feel so lucky that Brianna is part of the Charlie Cart network, and we are clearly not the only ones who feel this way. The students adore her! One student said, "She reminds me of Mary Musgrove, because she helps people learn new things about food." 


“It is important to show kids how to eat a variety of foods early! It is also great when the kids can grow, harvest and present the food all on their own!”
 

Laura Nicholls

Teacher, Lincoln Elementary School
Ventura Unified School District
Ventura, CA

Background

I have been teaching for 13 years. I am a mother of 3 students in the Ventura Unified School District and was a student there as well.

Children reached by The Charlie Cart

School size: 265 students, K-5

How are you using the cart and curriculum?

All students, K-5 receive cooking class one time per month. We always use the cooking cart and materials. Last year, in the pilot, provided recipes were used for 4th and 5th graders only, but now all students come to the cafeteria for cooking classes.

The district cooking curriculum we are provided is a one-size-fits-all model! When we implement the new lessons next year, the kids will be amazed and happy to not have repeating lessons from year to year.

What is the early feedback about the Charlie Cart tools and materials?

I have had many parents comment that their children are more willing to try new things because of the cooking lessons provided at school. Students have asked to go grocery shopping with the parents to pick out items from the recipes we made in class.

Favorite Charlie Cart lesson?

The students loved the tamale recipe. They asked for extra copies to take to grandparents houses. They love that they get to cut and peel and shred and measure and mix and bake.  They feel like they can take the recipes home and make them on their own because they have practiced in class beforehand.

There was so much thought put into the design of the Charlie Cart. I love how everything fits nicely into the cart. I love the variety of tools and the various sizes of bowls and I love that it’s all in one place! It is completely obvious that this project was created with the kids in mind.

What are some of the challenges and how are you overcoming those?

The biggest challenge has to be getting all of the materials washed before the next class comes in. The way I have been able to solve that is to have extra cutting boards and measuring cups ready for the next class. I also have been hesitant to introduce the sharp knives with all classes, so some classes still use plastic knives that we wash and reuse. The scrapers are a good alternative to knives.

What stands out about the lesson plans?

I like how they are organized. The shopping list in included, and it contains all the background necessary to teach the lesson. I always want to explain growing seasons and the history of foods and I like that it is included rather than having to find it on my own! I also love the variety of foods included in the recipes. It is important to show kids how to eat a variety of foods early! It is also great when the kids can grow, harvest and present the food all on their own!

Charlie Cart Project note:

Laura is the kind of teacher that you never forget, the one you write a letter to when you graduate from college and thank for inspiring and believing in you. She has the students enthralled from the first word. It was our honor and pleasure to see the Charlie Cart Project come to life in Laura’s classes.


“My dream was to have a mobile teaching kitchen in which we could teach families to prepare tasty meals that were both healthy and affordable no matter our setting.”
 
 

Dana Mitchel

Nutrition Manager
Lowcountry Food Bank
Charleston, SC

Background

In her current role, Dana engages local non-profits, Title I schools, faith-based organizations, and their clients by facilitating culinary nutrition courses, grocery store tours, and education based outreach events.

Through Dana’s efforts, the Lowcountry Food Bank has become a leader in nutrition education. In 2015 the Lowcountry Food Bank became a SNAP Education Implementing Agent bringing in over $250,000 in funding in the first two years of partnership. Through SNAP, Dana collaborates with local health prevention and promotion programs, colleges, professional organizations, and state programs to implement nutrition education for SNAP eligible participants, empowering them with resources and knowledge to make healthy choices for themselves and their families. 

People reached by The Charlie Cart

We serve of 200,000 families each year across the 10 coastal counties of South Carolina. In 2015 we reached of 35,000 people through our Nutrition Education programs. With the Charlie Cart, our goal is to reach 2080 kids in our first year.

How did you hear about the Charlie Cart Project?

We “Googled!”  My dream was to have a mobile teaching kitchen in which we could teach families to prepare tasty meals that were both healthy and affordable no matter our setting.  We could also use this mobile kitchen to provide healthy meals for kids throughout the summer when they do not have access to free and reduced breakfast and lunch.  In our rural areas, we have had limitations in providing this type of education and nutritious meals. I went to Google to see if I could find a plan for a portable kitchen.  That’s when we found the Charlie Cart!  The cart will allow us to offer safe and delicious cooking demonstrations and classes no matter the facility.

How do you use the cart?

We are currently taking the cart to schools to integrate interactive samplings at health and wellness fairs and our mobile farmers markets. 

We have incorporated Charlie Cart into our Pop Up Cooking Matters at the Store tours in which we bring the grocery store to organizations that work with clients that have transportation barriers and mobility limitations.  We set up 4 stations for participants to visit and learn how to better navigate the grocery store on a budget.  Charlie allows us to show participants a meal they can make that only costs $6 and serves 6-9 people. 

We have partnered with the local American Culinary Federation Chapter (ACF) to begin a Chef and Child program at a local Title I elementary school in which we are teaching the kids about healthier snacks such as yogurt based dips, salsa, and smoothies.

This summer Charlie Cart will allow us to empower kids at our summer feeding sites to try new foods and to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their meals and snacks.  We will bring this to our after school programs, too, to help improve the acceptance of new meals we will be preparing for the kids.

What is the early feedback about the Charlie Cart tools and materials?

The visual appeal is catching everyone’s eye.  Staff and volunteers at the food bank have been so impressed with all of the tools that came with Charlie.  After cleaning everything we laid all of the supplies out on four of our prep tables in the kitchen.  Anyone who walked by the kitchen said “wow all of that fits in that cart?” 

We are thankful for a sink that will allow us to safely sample in the community and are also very thankful for safe, attractive materials to introduce to our program participants.

What are some of the challenges and how are you overcoming those?

A lot of times we only have 30 minutes at the site. So we have many of the foods partially prepared and the kids help us finish prep and assemble.

Being a food bank, all of our programming occurs off site.  Transporting the cart has been a challenge. As more food banks and organizations inquire about the cart, I think programs like ours will benefit from understanding that the original purpose of this cart was to be transported around a school or single site, not on and off trucks and over different terrain. We are currently using a truck with a lift gate to move the cart from site to site.

Charlie Cart Project note:

We are so impressed with the creative approach LCFB is taking to deliver more fresh produce to their communities, including partnering with local farms and even purchasing a farm for the Food bank. We are so proud to be partnering with Dana and the rest of this extraordinary organization! Thank you for all the work you do!