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Creativity Kitchen in Jackson Public Schools

Monday, January 25, 2016

Mississippi Museum of Art and Jackson Public Schools announce

Creativity Kitchen: Chef Inspired Cuisine for Healthy Scholars

Partnership led by Chef Nick Wallace brings culinary arts, nutrition, into local schools

(Jackson, Miss…) Jackson Public Schools, the Mississippi Museum of Art, and the Museum’s Executive Chef and Culinary Curator Nick Wallace announce Creativity Kitchen, an initiative designed to spark excitement and education about eating and preparing healthy food in middle school cafeterias. The program will be piloted in two Jackson Middle Schools, Blackburn Laboratory Middle School and Powell Middle School, before rolling out in a wider launch to more middle schools around the city.

The purpose of Creativity Kitchen is to connect culinary arts, nutrition education, and creativity to engage students, staff, families, and the community to foster the desire in students to eat well, eat fresh, and enjoy the process of preparing healthy meals. Through the partnership, JPS students, staff, and supporters will be exposed to the fruits of culinary exploration and creativity and become more in tune with the process of food preparation, from farm and field to tray and table.

“We believe we can influence middle school scholars to make wiser decisions about health and wellness starting at the school lunch tables,” said Superintendent Dr. Cedrick Gray.

According to JPS Food Service Director Mary Hill, scholars will make healthy dietary decisions as they learn how food is produced in Mississippi and how schools get these products from local farmers. “The ultimate goal is to expose our scholars to a larger variety of healthy and delicious food choices so that they become more informed consumers and educators of nutrition to their communities,” said Hill.

JPS students, staff and supporters will be exposed to cuisine, farming, and art through the partnership with the Museum of Art and Chef Nick Wallace. “This partnership will introduce our scholars to a new dimension of excellence in culinary arts and education,” said Chief Academic Officer for Middle Schools Chinelo Evans.

As students learn how food is produced in Mississippi, how schools get these local products from farmers, and how to make eating nutritiously trendy, that they will help parents make positive dietary decisions.

The figurehead for this reinvigoration of the school lunch menus is Chef Nick Wallace of the Mississippi Museum of Art. Raised on a farm in nearby Edwards, Mississippi, Wallace gives credit for his cooking abilities to his grandmothers. A leader in redefining the Southern food experience, Wallace blends his family-farm origins with his classical training – learned in cooking schools and kitchens from Jackson, Mississippi to Anchorage, Alaska – improvising new reflections on the culinary traditions of his home state.

Nick Wallace has served as chef for some of the country’s largest and most storied hotels, including the Marriott and Jackson, Mississippi’s historic King Edward Hotel (Hilton Garden Inn), where he honed his leadership skills and challenged himself to continually innovate. He is now the Executive Chef and Culinary Curator at the Mississippi Museum of Art, where he takes inspiration from the visual arts traditions and stories of the state and translates them into his unique cuisine.

“I myself am an alumnus of Jackson Public Schools, and of Blackburn Middle School, specifically,” Wallace said. “I understand both the challenge and the importance of providing healthy, exciting meals to students. Students need fuel to learn, and we want to give them high quality, delicious, and artfully-inspired meals that propel them to achieve and perform at their very best. My presence in the schools will also be a resource to those students who may want to consider a career in the culinary industry as an example to the next generation of how rewarding a life in the kitchen can be.”

Chef Wallace will work closely with JPS food service personnel to craft recipes that meet school requirements and promote healthy eating. Where possible, Wallace and kitchen staff will take steps to incorporate more locally grown, Mississippi-sourced product into the system-wide food service operation. As Wallace trains staff at individual schools in the methods of preparing his menus, Creativity Kitchen will take root in schools across Jackson. The ultimate goal of the program is to expose students to a larger variety of healthy food choices so that they may become more informed consumers and educators of nutrition in their own communities.

“This partnership with Jackson Public Schools is very exciting to us,” said Betsy Bradley, Director of the Mississippi Museum of Art. “Here at the Museum, we strive to draw connections between the art in our galleries and our own gardens, including The Payton CityFarm Learning Garden, a functioning urban plot that serves as both an outdoor classroom and a source for fresh ingredients. Creativity Kitchen pushes these ideas even further, beyond our walls and grounds and into the public schools, where it can have a wide reaching and lasting impact.”

The Mississippi Museum of Art’s mission is to “engage Mississippians in the visual arts.” The Museum is located at 380 South Lamar Street in Jackson. Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM to 5 PM and Sunday, noon to 5 PM. The Museum is closed Monday. For more information about the Mississippi Museum of Art’s exhibitions, programs, and special events, please call 601-960-1515 or 1-866-VIEW ART (843-9278), or visit www.msmuseumart.org.

The Mississippi Museum of Art and its programs are sponsored in part by the city of Jackson and the Jackson Convention & Visitors Bureau. Support is also provided in part by funding from the Mississippi Arts Commission, a state agency, and in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency.