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Fueling minds and stomachs: Durham teacher fights for food justice by building garden for students

Posted May 5, 2021 6:22 p.m. EDT
Updated May 6, 2021 9:50 a.m. EDT

— When the pandemic closed schools in March of 2020, most families had to navigate the changes quickly. This included figuring out how to feed their children during financial hardship.

Now, a Durham teacher is fighting for food justice by using lesson plans to fuel minds – and stomachs.

More than 1300 students attend Carrington Middle School, and the majority of them are in need of support. While Durham Public Schools held meal distribution sites to help tackle the issue, Tyler D’Angelo worked to get the school more than $44,000 in grant funding for a different approach.

“Carrington Middle School is a Title I school here on the north end of Durham. A lot of what we see with our students is our students are really food insecure and the pandemic only highlighted that," said D’Angelo.

He’s the new biotechnology and agriculture teacher, using his lesson plans to fight food insecurity.

"We have a garden. We have an outdoor greenhouse. We have a chicken coop, rabbit hutches, we have a mushroom outback. All of these different things are helping to connect our students about where their food comes from and think about it from a local level," he said.

"A lot of what we see with our students is our students are really food insecure and the pandemic only highlighted that," said D’Angelo, who began as the new biotechnology and agriculture teacher during the 2019-2020 school year.

“A lot of our students depend on free and reduced lunch. Somewhere between 75% and 80% of our students are in need of support with meals at school," said Jo McDonnell, assistant principal.

"He is a change maker. He has brought energy and resources to our schools," she said.

Students are now getting hands-on learning about healthy eating. Some are even able to take produce home to their families.

“We are hoping to reduce stress and anxiety from the onset from the onset of COVID-19 in the hopes that eventually that students will find education more rewarding," said D’Angelo.

The greenhouse is expected to last up to 10 years. School staff hope this creates a long-term change in the community.

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