ASU Prep Phoenix & Blue Watermelon Project: Cultivating fresh solutions for our student community

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ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix is excited to announce our partnership with Blue Watermelon Project, an organization committed to increasing access to fresh food and integrating food education for students and their schools.

Read on to discover how ASU Prep Phoenix and Blue Watermelon Project are changing students’ lives in our community through impactful initiatives. This collaboration is shaping a healthier future and creating a blueprint for a vibrant, thriving community.

What is Blue Watermelon Project?

Blue Watermelon Project was founded in 2016 with the goal of creating a future where students have access to fresh, nourishing food. Blue Watermelon Project works with partner schools, like ASU Prep Phoenix, to integrate food education, gardening, great tasting recipes and more into their program.

Paul Raia, a teacher and community advocate at ASU Prep, has been instrumental in the development and success of ASU Prep’s partnership with Blue Watermelon Project. Through the project, students get to work with local chefs to create delicious healthy recipes, learn how to plant food, and develop a love of nutrition.

“These kids really love to work together, and you can tell they take a lot of pride and joy in what they are doing,” says Raia. In addition, Blue Watermelon Project works with the families and community at ASU Prep to deliver the same education, interaction, and passion for nourishing themselves.

Academia meets agriculture at ASU Prep Phoenix

ASU Prep Phoenix has been working with Blue Watermelon Project’s chef in the Garden Program to team up with local chefs and local gardens each month. According to Raia, Blue Watermelon brings fresh ingredients from local farms for the class demonstrations so students can be introduced to a variety of foods and flavors.

In January 2024, ASU Prep students were introduced to Chef David Hawke, a Korean-born local chef who owns the restaurant Valentine in Phoenix. Raia was surprised to see that the students enjoyed the spicier nature of the Cabbage Stir Fry. It’s all a part of them opening their minds and taste buds to more flavorful cuisine through these lessons.

The students learned about a local farm: the La Campagna Homestead which provided the planting materials. The interactive lesson included a recipe for napa cabbage noodle stir fry, as well as information about gardening napa cabbage, and a coloring sheet for the younger students. Every month a newsletter is sent to parents to encourage family involvement, with tips to engage with their children and make it a family event!

Together with Blue Watermelon Project, ASU Prep has been able to empower students to embrace different cultures as well. For Native American Heritage Month in November, Chef in the Garden was hosted live in a garden for a hands-on culinary experience and lesson with local Dinē Chef Jaren Bates.

In addition to these live demonstrations, Raia shares that Blue Watermelon provides them with produce and instructions on how to plant the produce. “It really is amazing to see the collaboration and enjoyment of these kids working together in the garden,” says Raia. “All around the garden you see kids in groups of two and three just digging holes, planting things, and being filled with this sense of community.”

Stronger community through partnership

At ASU Prep Phoenix, we truly believe that investing in our community through something as simple as food education and access is the way to build a strong, successful community. When students are given fun, interactive education about nutrition and have access to local farms, they are more likely to succeed. Studies show that students with this kind of access and education not only feel better, but perform better academically.

Providing students and their families with information on local chefs and local farms also helps strengthen the local community. By supporting local businesses, we are pouring back into the local economy. ASU Prep has always been dedicated to creating a vibrant, flourishing community in Phoenix.

This partnership with Blue Watermelon Project highlights just one of the incredibly unique and exciting opportunities available to students at ASU Prep Phoenix. This is a powerful program that is truly a gem in our community and we are excited to see how it helps new things blossom in 2024 for our students and their families!

Learn more about ASU Prep Phoenix

ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix is a tuition-free, PreK–12 public charter school offering personalized paths to college and career success for elementary, middle, and high school students. With the support of Arizona State University, we’re creating successful pathways to college, making higher education a reality for our diverse and thriving student community.