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Healthy hearts, minds
NFHS class gives back through food
cooking 0207
Robert Richards serves some meals to last-minute arrivers. Richards said he wants to pursue a career in the food industry. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Robert Richards loves to cook and plans on a career in the food industry.

A senior at North Forsyth High School, Richards got his first taste of catering for a crowd Wednesday as his advanced nutrition and wellness class cooked lunch at The Place of Forsyth County.

“I didn’t think I could do ... this and have this much fun,” he said. “Growing up, my mom always liked to help out and give during Christmas time. So this is a way to give all year round, so it’s great.”

The Place, a nonprofit organization that provides essentials to those in need, serves lunch every Wednesday to the community.

Local civic groups, churches and other volunteer organizations usually prepare the weekly meals, though volunteer Joni Berto said students step in on occasion.

“Normally we do a buffet,” Berto told the students. “So this will be a real treat for you guys to serve them.”

Angie Castleberry, who teaches the class at North, has been active with The Place for several years. She said bringing the students served two needs.

“They’re giving back to the community,” she said. “... They’re learning not only how to follow recipes, but they had to extend these recipes for 125 people, and they’re doing a lot of things they’ve never really experienced before.

“When you work with food, there’s so much you can do to give back.”

Castleberry said the course teaches nutrition from birth to college to late adulthood. Students learn how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, but also how to make choices and prepare food.

The group used money earned catering the school’s lacrosse banquet last year to buy all the food.

For their work at The Place, Castleberry said, the class had to “look at quantity food production and preparation.”

“We can teach anything in the classroom, but [now] they can actually go out and experience it,” she said. “They’re doing a lot of things they never really experienced before.”

The class started preparing the meal more than a week before, said senior Katie Chester.

“We talked about ... what kind of meal would be healthy for all types of people and this week we split up into groups and each group was in charge of one food,” she said.

“When I heard about what we were going to do, I didn’t expect people to actually line up for it. But there were people lined up waiting to get in.”

Lunch-goers ranged in age from infants to senior citizens. Many arrived before the doors opened at noon. By 12:30 p.m., last-minute diners had been served and people were requesting to-go boxes.  

“It’s something I would expect to see in a big city, but I didn’t expect it to be like this,” Chester said. “I’m so blessed, and if I can share ... I think it’s a really good thing.”

Victoria Livingston, who was on the green bean team, said the experience “means a huge deal.”

“You see all the people’s faces and that they loved it, and it just makes me happy,” she said.