Something exciting and fresh is happening at Wheeler High School! The Wildcat Nation is expanding Wheeler Fresh Collaborative, a cross-curricular collaboration by teachers and students whose goals are to increase community involvement and provide food essentials when and where needed. This STEAM initiative (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) was originally conceived as a farm-to-table program but has since evolved to include a food pantry started by Wheeler students and eventually supplemented with contributions from the surrounding community.
The Wheeler Fresh Collaborative utilizes expertise from Wheeler’s culinary, horticulture, environmental science, drafting, graphic design, and marketing classes along with many Wheeler clubs to help ensure fellow Wildcats have a reliable source of food when needed.
From concept to realization, many classes have helped develop the Wheeler Fresh Collaborative. Drafting students designed the layout of the grow beds for horticulture students. Environmental science students studied the soil and the growing environment. Now, horticulture students grow herbs and vegetables, and culinary students prepare, cook, and serve meals. Graphic design students create logos and visuals. Credit for branding and promotion of the Wheeler Fresh Collaborative goes to the school’s marketing students. Wheeler’s Girls Who Code Club members manage the online ordering system for the food pantry, which they created.
For its kick-off event, Wheeler Fresh Collaborative hosted a dinner theatre ahead of Wheeler Theatre’s production of the musical “Annie” in the Spring of 2019. This event, along with Marketing students attending monthly business luncheons in the East Cobb and North Cobb areas and articles published in local media outlets such as East Cobber Magazine, brought attention to the initiative. Collaboration has since involved linking Wheeler’s feeder schools and their food pantries to further extend the program’s reach.
Currently, Wheeler Fresh Collaborative is preparing for its inaugural Wheeler Fresh Marketplace scheduled for January 17. The Marketplace will be set up outside the Performing Arts Center, in conjunction with Wheeler Theatre’s musical production of “Freaky Friday!”
There will be an interactive gallery where a variety of Wheeler clubs, organizations, and classes will promote concepts of students helping students, collaboration and community involvement within the Wheeler family.
The Horticulture Club will sell plant starters, AP Statistics students will display their original games for people to play, and other Wheeler clubs will have snacks for purchase or a community experience to present. Thanks to donation boxes placed around the Marketplace for the Wheeler Fresh Collaborative and Feed Our Friends initiatives, visitors will be able to help pay off student lunch debt across the Wheeler cluster of schools.
Program organizers and volunteers plan for the Wheeler Fresh Collaborative to sustain a food pantry with both Wheeler grown food and other non-perishable items, which will aid the 41% of Wheeler students who benefit from free and reduced lunch. The goal is for the Wheeler Fresh Collaborative to reduce the challenges faced by those in need in the community, all the while demonstrating what can be accomplished when students work together to build a true sense of community.