A special program in a south Phoenix school district is teaching more than academics.

Its focus is food, and it's designed for students who may need it most.

The Roosevelt School District uses private donations for their Positive Reflections Club, called the "PR" Club.

"The entrepreneurs of the future will have to create something new, and also be able to market. That's what we bring together in this program," school board member Lawrence Robinson said.

Looking ahead to the future is one goal. Family connection is another.

"A lot of the families in south Phoenix gather every night around the table. So being able to help their families cook, and maybe be able to open a business in the future is what they're taking out of this program," Robinson added.

In a community with higher rates of diabetes and obesity, another goal is to get the kids to eat healthier.

"I'm making potatoes and blueberry muffins and other things. I don't think I'll be a chef, but at least I know how to cook things," eighth-grader Gabriel Olaichu said.

"I just learned how to work with yeast and make breads, and how to be more independent," seventh-grader Karen Deciderio said.

Many families in the Roosevelt School District rely on free or reduced meals at school for their children. It presents challenges during the summer months when school is on break.

Teaching the young students to be self-sufficient in the kitchen helps keep them eating nutritious food while away from school.

"The more we can do to get them the skills to be able to make meals from scratch and understand their nutritional needs, the better," Dan Bogert of the Arizona Restaurant Association said.

The Arizona Restaurant Association and SSP America help sponsor the food program, which uses no funding from the state.

"We're connecting our kids back to our roots in south Phoenix. We farmed and had orchards. As we see the farm to table concept taking off in the restaurant industry, these kids know already know those skills. Connecting them to their roots is connecting them to a future of prosperity," Robinson said.

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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