Cam Petersen and FoodCorps Bring Fun to Julian

48359292_10155641962892373_1080532218834

Cam Petersen and two of Julian’s Garden Ambassadors

 

IMG_3389 (1).JPG

Cam has three primary areas of involvement with the district. “One: I teach lessons for every [elementary school] class once a week. I work with the after school program where we have a garden and nutrition club, and that includes the junior high school as well as the elementary school. So a good part of my day is spent doing that and prepping for that.

“Secondly, I am in the cafeteria and I work with the food service providers there to steer kids toward healthier options and get them excited to try new foods. So that can be a bunch of things like doing taste tests, or bringing out a white board or infographic materials to get kids introduced to trying new things.

“And then I spend  time working with the school and the administrators, as well as the community at large, trying to engage everybody into this school-wide culture of health and wellness.”

​From finding volunteers to work in the garden to helping to produce a district-wide event like the fall’s annual Food Day, opportunities for the community to be involved are plentiful. Cam is quick to applaud the work of Julian Pathways as the engine behind what he does. “So much was already going on before FoodCorps was here, which has made it very easy for me to step into this role and build it out and refine it a little bit more. Working alongside Julian Pathways makes all of that work seamless, and it runs much more smoothly than I can imagine if it was starting from scratch. This has been going on for 10-15 years, and it shows.” 

Cam Petersen speaking to a class at Julian Elementary School on Food Day 2018

For Cam Petersen, a service member of FoodCorps based in Julian, CA, working to engage students in issues of health and nutrition is a way of giving back to the region in which he was raised. An East County, San Diego native, Cam returned from two years in the Peace Corps, stationed in Ghana in West Africa, with a desire to serve his own community. It turns out that FoodCorps had a position open in Julian working with the school district and Julian Pathways, and a match was made. 

 

Julian Elementary School has the unique opportunity to offer its students weekly nutrition and garden lessons. One look at the way that students respond to Cam’s infectious energy and it’s clear to see why students are excited about learning all about food and nutrition.

Cam works hard to make sure that students are having fun in the midst of the learning. Of the approach he says, “we cram so much stuff into these young children’s lives, and they’re overwhelmed - there’s so much that’s coming at them all the time that it almost gets lost. So it has to be fun, it has to be engaging, it has to be on their terms.” 

One of the things that drives Cam is being able to encourage children to embrace the abundance of agriculture in their community. “My approach is to get all these kids to have a relationship with food. To know where food comes from and know how to prepare it, and find enjoyment and enrichment from that. I’ve seen that when kids are engaged with food - when it’s not something that just comes in a bag and they open it - but when it’s something they work with and get to smell, and touch, and taste, they’re much more excited about it. And that gives them some agency, so then they take it up for themselves to eat healthy.”

Thumbs-up for new favorite foods

Explains Cam, “Julian, more than most school districts in San Diego County, has a very tightly knit community aspect to it. Everybody here knows everybody. Everyone’s on a first name basis. They watch each others children grow up, and that plays itself out in so many different ways. And so I think that’s a really unique and interesting aspect of working here and seeing how this has evolved organically and by the merits of the people in the community. There aren’t things that are being brought up that people aren’t on board with. It only gets done if people are wanting it to get done. So I think that’s interesting and unique. I think the people at Julian Elementary School are really good at utilizing their resources.”

When asked what lessons he’s learned from the Julian team and his fellow FoodCorps service members, Cam is quick to return to the importance of fun. “The number one takeaway is to have fun. Students look up to you as a role model, and you have to be that role model in a good, positive way. It’s easy to remind yourself how much of a good influence you can be or a shining light. You’re an adult that’s fun. You’re an adult that’s teaching them important lessons. So I think that keeping that in the back of your head can motivate you.”

42164619_10155476394122373_6650218183057

When asked what lessons he’s learned from the Julian team and his fellow FoodCorps service members, Cam is quick to return to the importance of fun. “The number one takeaway is to have fun. Students look up to you as a role model, and you have to be that role model in a good, positive way. It’s easy to remind yourself how much of a good influence you can be or a shining light. You’re an adult that’s fun. You’re an adult that’s teaching them important lessons. So I think that keeping that in the back of your head can motivate you.”

"My greatest satisfaction is when I hear from teachers and parents, the ones that spend the most time with children, that they are actually observing change. I see kids excited, because what we’re doing is fun and engaging. But I also take that with a grain of salt. It’s when I hear teachers tells me that they see their students making healthier choices on their own, or when I meet parents who tell me that their kids can’t stop talking about how much they love the garden and nutrition classes and that they’re begging them to buy something like beets or carrots, which are anathema to most children, traditionally speaking, that’s when I feel like it’s working.”

For as much as Cam sees fun as a vehicle for the lessons he imparts, he is also focused on the tangible outcomes of his work. 

Fun is the gateway for Cam’s teaching

Follow us on Social Media

  • Facebook - Black Circle
  • Instagram - Black Circle