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Raising the Bar

March 19th, 2011 - By Therese Madden

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There’s more than just oats and nuts in this granola bar. Philadelphia’s Pepper Middle School students make and sell their own healthy bar. It’s a tasty way to learn about nutrition, math, science and a bit of business.


All across the country people are looking for ways to get kids to eat better. In Philadelphia’s Pepper Middle School, the nutrition educator is trying something a little different. Minutes after the bell rings, in a class of 7th grade girls, teacher Jarrett Stein wastes no time getting down to business. “We only have 35 minutes and we are producing granola today time is money.”

In no time the 32 girls split into two teams. They are making healthy granola bars and compete to see who can sell more bars to their peers. The team names are Vitaminlicious and Dynamighty.

Vitaminlicious makes the Mighty Bar and Dynamighty has the Mega Bar. Teacher Jarret Stein has them start with the same base recipe. He works for the Urban Nutrition Initiative, a program of the University of Pennsylvania. Penn students and a nutritionist create the recipe, and the middle school students take it from there.

By adding extra pineapple juice, or perhaps an accidental heavy hand with the baking soda, each team creates a distinct product. Within seconds, the girls are on a mission. The leaders bark out orders, “let’s get our materials. Get some oats out, brown sugar, make sure we got whole wheat flour…” They are moving fast. Oats are flying through the air, ingredients are getting lined up. Yet things are also under control, “alright everybody we need to split up and do separate tray, first we mix the dry ingredients, after that we add the cranberries.”

Each week the students are assigned different roles in the company, there’s a CEO, a head chef and even a very important but not necessarily glamorous job. “I am the health inspector, and I am passing out hand sanitizers for people who touch their hair or touch the desk and they are not clean.” If a team is caught violating a health code, the bars will not be suitable to sell. This will put the other team in the lead.

After all it’s not about who makes the most bars, it’s about who sells the most bars. It teaches students about baking, but also about business, and the power of food marketing.

I went over to the Dynamighty advertising team to see how they were doing. With construction paper and markers they were hard at work making posters they will hang around the school. Here’s a sample, “try Mega Bars, and then we have quotes on the sides, all smiles, no frowns when you are eating Mega Bars.”

Sounds good. And importantly they also taste good. Which did surprise some of the students. Mabintu Kenneth is on team Dynamighty, she says, “it teachs us that healthy food can also be good, cause when we first started I was like granola bars are nasty, and then when we started eating them I was like these are really good!”

It’s not just the students who make the bars who like them. Last week the school snack bar sold out of both the Mega Bar and the Mighty Bar. Which is really impressive considering what else the snack bar offers, “Doritos, Cheez-Its, Capri Sun, cookies, Oreos…”


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3 Responses to Raising the Bar

  • Yolanda B. Armstrong

    I am the proud principal of Pepper Middle.
    Our students embrace learning, technology and new programs that benefit the whole school.
    Jarret has been a breath of fresh air working with our students. He cares about them and teaches them to believe in themselves.
    Kudos to Mr. Stein for another stellar program for students at Pepper :-)

  • Raising the Bar | The Crunchy Carrot

    [...] was a great article written about Jarrett and his class on WHYY, you should definitely read it: here (they are making healthy granola [...]

  • Valerie Smith, ME.d

    Very Nice, I am so proud to have my daughter be a part of the Vitaminlicious Team. Congrats to all the students involved. I wish more people could have known about this site, but then I’ll step up to help this wonderful team of girls. I am a proud parent and hopefully more parents will join me and get involved. Well done girls, well done.

Photo by Flicker user Chiot's Run / CC BY-NC 2.0

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