Roosevelt Academy's Grilling Garden

photo Paul Crate The Ledger

Roosevelt Academy Grilling Garden

WHO: Learning Disabled 9th - 10th grade students

PROBLEM: Poor adult eating habits, obesity & disease

Healthy grilling, how to plant & grow a home vegetable garden, self sufficiency

HOW MANY, HOW LONG: I serve 45 students a day directly, 100 involved indirectly. Length is 1 year.

WHAT'S THE MONEY FOR: Charcoal for 27 grilling episodes per week, vegetables for 45 students 1 x week, proteins for 45 students 1 x month, materials to create, plant, & grow a permanent large class vegetable garden

DETAILS: My name is Rob Bagby and I have been a Special Education teacher for 25 years at Roosevelt Academy in Lake Wales, FL. All of my students have learning disabilities, and many live at or below the poverty level. They will not be going to college; we are training them to be outstanding employees by the time they graduate in 12th grade. Our goal is to produce quality citizens and tax payers, not tax burdens. And we are good at it. I am going to do something that has not been done before at a public school, and I need help with funding to get it up and running.

I have started a unique new food initiative with my students. I am going to teach my kids that eating food that is “good for you” does not have to be boring, flavorless, and akin to eating like a rabbit. I am introducing my students to a long-standing favorite American pastime, grilling! I will be taking the ordinary, bland vegetables and fruits that not too many kids want to eat, and teaching them how to make these foods extraordinary on a grill.

Besides being a Special Education teacher for the past 25 years, I have also developed some serious skills as a professional BBQ competitor. I have competed in 16 states and won 47 state and Grand Championships. I also teach professional level BBQ classes across the country and have even taught in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I have the skills and the experience to make this idea wildly successful. And it will be.

I want to share my talents with my students. I want to take the phrase "think outside the box" to a new level. At school I teach a class called "Preparation for Adult Living" which is just what it sounds like. Through follow-up with our graduates we have learned that they do not always follow sound nutritional practices. They eat primarily processed foods high in sugars and fat. Graduates find these are inexpensive and easy to fix. They become obese, develop weight-related diseases, lower their quality of life, and put unneeded burden on our health care system. I want to change that and teach them that eating nutritious, real food is just as affordable, and it can be fun and easy to prepare.

photo Paul Crate The Ledger

I have already secured over $2,000 worth of grills and equipment through Horace Mann Insurance via, and GrillGrates . You can see my Donors Choose page here .

That is a great start and now we need to begin the next phases. 

My students will be receiving real, hands-on training on how to grill healthy foods once a week. They will learn how to safely cook on a grill over charcoal and easily create great tasting food that is good for them. I will teach them a skill they can use their entire lives with the grill, chimney starter, and tongs. To do this we will need charcoal and vegetables on a weekly basis. We will grill vegetables once a week and proteins once a month or as our budget allows.

The second part of this next phase is to teach these same students how to plant and grow their own vegetables. I have been given a plot of land at school that we can use for a garden. Just like in real life, we do not want to have to rely on donations forever. There will be no sense of entitlement; in fact quite the opposite. I want this project to eventually be self-sustaining. Any extra vegetables we harvest will be sold locally and that money will be put back in to the program. We will need funding to create the beds, improve the soil, install a simple watering system, buy seeds, and all of the other associated costs.

This project is exciting to my students and myself. They learn best by hands-on activities. They learn by doing. And they will get the immediate positive feedback when they get to eat their dishes! Yes it is a very unconventional approach. But given my background & skills, it would be a waste not to take advantage of this opportunity. Thank you for your consideration.

Newspaper Article About Our Grilling Program

Roosevelt Academy's Web Site

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Rub Bagby 
Lake Wales, FL
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