Mission Vista Creative Writing Class Showcases Appetite For Nutrition

April 01st, 2019

Mission Vista High School English teacher Mrs. Marti Peruski has been a champion for WaveCrest Cafe for several years. Her classes have hosted taste test and feedback sessions, and she’s even done an exercise where students wrote reviews of various foods served at the cafeteria. When looking for a different spin on things for one of her creative writing classes, she landed on the idea of having students write advertising copy for items that they would taste test.

The activity involved students sampling four items form the new spring menu, providing feedback about each item, and then putting their writing skills to work by deliver advertising headline and tag lines that had the opportunity to be used in posters and social media posts for the new items (more on that later).

The four items students tasted were the Chicken Pasta Salad; Orange Chicken Wrap; Strawberry Spinach Salad; and the Cheeseburger Pizza.

Samples of the Strawberry Spinach Salad are lined up and ready for MVHS students to taste.

Student Voices / Real World Connections
Said sophomore Mo Adams about the lesson and activity, “I really enjoyed it because it gave a perspective from the students and not relying on someone that we don’t know. If it’s from a fellow student I feel like it’s a little more personal.” She also found that the exercise provided a way to take skills learned in the class and apply them to different scenarios. “It adds the perspective of the real world. A lot of stuff [that we write] is fiction, so to apply this to the real world, it helps with your writing.”

That echoes two of Mrs. Peruski’s motivations for the lesson. “For Creative Writing, we want an authentic audience. Not only do we write fiction and poetry, but we need to write non-fiction. And it’s nice for students to realize how creative writing is something that connects in many careers.”

Freshman DJ Kriedeman concurs, “since we’re the ones that are going to be eating the food, it’s good to have our opinion on it.”

In addition to the authenticity of students’ voices, the “real-world” application is a tremendous advantage for this sort of activity. Explains Mrs. Peruski, “it was nice for students to see how they can take creative writing and fuse it or utilize it in real world activities. It’s a meaningful project. Not only are we benefitting the students, but they’re getting more invested in the food.”

Chicken Pasta Salad samples awaiting students’ verdicts.

Sourcing Of Food
While tasting the various dishes, WaveCrest team members explained to students the process of sourcing and preparing food. One aspect that grabbed students’ attention was the expansion of WaveCrest’s Farm To School work and sourcing more and more local, organic, and California-grown and produced items. 

Said Mo Adams, “I thought that was really interesting because it kind of – I don’t know why but I always thought it was frozen. To learn that it was fresh was really a good feeling.”

That sentiment was shared by her classmate, Junior Nolan Harp, who eats a school meal almost every day. Nolan is particularly fond of the myriad salad options offered. “I like the variety of salads and having more options. I just feel healthier eating salads.” As for the sourcing of fresh fruits and veggies, Nolan finds a benefit to that as well. “I think it’s good. It makes me think the food’s better that, for example, it’s lettuce from California and not shipped in from Canada or something.”

As for whether students being more aware of the food sourcing would make a difference in student perception of the food, DJ Kriedeman weighed in. “Would understanding where food comes from help change the food’s perception? Yes, I do think that it would.”

Students rated and provided descriptive feedback on each item.

A District That Cares
Another theme of the day’s activity was understanding the thought and care that Team WaveCrest Cafe puts into sourcing and planning meals. “It makes me feel like they really care,” said Mo Adams. “You see the cliche in movies where the food’s really gross, and I feel like the food here [at Mission Vista and in Vista Unified] is visually appealing and is actually good, decent food, and nutritious.”

Mrs. Peruski agrees, having seen the program grow and change through the years, including times prior to the establishment of the WaveCrest Cafe brand. She acknowledged the entire department, and singled out WaveCrest Nutrition Education & Training Supervisor Amy Haessly, with whom Mrs. Peruski interacts regularly. “I think Amy not only cares about healthy food, but I love how you guys are accessing local food. I liked how Amy is after not only healthy food, but creative food. Food that not only tastes excellent, but also is attractive.”

Students reinforced that with their comments in the class. When asked for feedback after trying the Orange Chicken Wrap, Mo Adams offered that the mix of popcorn chicken and fresh vegetables, “made me feel like I was eating something healthy.” She was. And she was glad to find another favorite school meal, as she eats at the cafeteria at least three days a week. Among her favorites, “the popcorn chicken, the salads – the one with the egg and the jicama, and the chicken sandwiches – those are really good.”

Words & Images
As students took time to work on their writing after the tasting, learning and feedback session, Mrs. Peruski made another connection at the school, bringing Graphic Design teacher Mrs. Laura Lee Juliano on board. Another activity was created that saw Mrs. Peruski’s students’ work being sent to Mrs. Juliano’s class, where students also learned about the menu items, and were then tasked with creating advertisements for each item.

Student sketches of what will be produced in Mrs. Juliano’s graphic design class.

Students learned about the entrees and how WaveCrest has worked to communicate aspects of the program. They then sketched out ideas and began to design artwork that may be used for posters across the district, and on the WaveCrest Cafe Instagram feed.

The initial artwork is being delivered as this article goes to press, so we’ll be sure to post an update with student artwork samples soon.

Similar class projects are underway at VIDA and Vista High School, and we welcome all idea for making connections between classroom studies and nutrition.