Cali2Philly: My Favorite Day

Rewind to a few weeks ago…

As I sit here down the shore (New Jersey, I’m a local now) escaping the triple digit extra high humidity of Philly, my friends are asking about the latest group of photos I posted.

I got the biggest smile on my face because this day brought me so much joy, I’d even go as far as saying it was my favorite day. As part of the Get HYPE Philly! team, we just wrapped up our 5th week of a six-week nutrition series with middle school kids during summer camp. If any of you remember me back in my teaching days, this age group was a difficult one for me to see myself teaching and I was nervous. It’s been 11 years since I was last in the classroom and a lot has changed since then, plus you throw in summer camp, no structure, kids together from different schools, and we are asking them to sit and learn about nutrition- making good food choices, challenge accepted.

This series started my first week here at The Food Trust, and I was brought into the planning process and implementation on week 2. After listening to the goods, the bads and the uglies of the first week, the team sat down and drafted a tighter, more specific plan for our time with the kids. We discussed how best to get their attention, I emphasized how much planning plays into reducing transitions which would lead to less disruptive behavior, etc., all the basics a teacher knows. We were ready for the next week, prior to the kids coming in we changed the configuration of the room, put name tags out and grabbed their attention as soon as they walked in. The day wasn’t perfect but based on the feedback from my colleagues, it was better. Have you heard the expression, “someone has a teacher voice”? Basically, it’s a more, “commander of the room voice”, and once you have it, apparently it doesn’t go away. Within 1 minute, it was back after 11 years of not using it…

Back to “my favorite day”, we did a Chopped Competition. In case you are not familiar, our version included giving the kids all the same ingredients to make a meal of their choice to be judged for creativity and best tasting. They could pick and choose which ingredients they wanted to use out of the bunch, but they HAD to include a bell pepper. The excitement that was exuding from most of the kids and the “I might be too cool to participate” from the others, the transform to all kids participating to make the best meal possible in 20 minutes, was fun to watch. They were all so excited to present what they made, they tasted it, and were confident they would win. They were pleasantly surprised at how good these healthier ingredients tasted when put together. Now it was time to judge, and of course since everyone had the exact same ingredients, they all tasted similar, but we were able to choose a winner.

Watching them work together as a team, seeing who would emerge as the leader and who would step up to make sure everyone was included and heard throughout the process, was surprising in some cases and not in others.

My 2nd favorite day would come the following week. We took another class to one of The Food Trust’s Farmers markets.

Here they would see a cooking lesson, hear about the benefits of meal planning, taste the food and then shop with the Philly Food Bucks they earned for attending the cooking lesson. Not going to lie, it was a long drawn out process for them, but they surprisingly liked the summer squash salad. By the time the lesson was over, and they had their money to spend, the farmers were out of fruit and had slim pickings with the vegetables left. I was blown away by what the kids bought and how much the farmers gave them for free!! Just look at the pictures below… To really show the impact, the kids were eating the bunches of carrots and tomatoes on the walk back to school.

These two activities reminded me why I wanted to be an educator in the first place. When people find out I was a teacher for 6 years prior to pharma, they ask if I would consider going back to it. I’ve always said it’s Plan B. This experience will continue to keep teaching as an option, it just might look different.

Fast forward to now…

This is the second week not being with the kids, and I miss them…


  1. Thanks for sharing this update Amber and it sounds like you are having a great experience. Regarding that voice you mention….you think it will work with your Customers when you return home😄?

  2. Wow! What a great experience! And the teacher is still in you, I love it. This sounds both challenging and rewarding at the same time.

  3. All this goes to show that you were meant to be here! Didn’t know you were a teacher but so cool to see how you could draw on you experience/learnings from 11 years ago & make it successful + it became your favorite day!! Cant wait to hear more teacher stories 🙂 You are doing great work for the kids in the community. p.s keep enjoying the Jersey shore ( I miss it) !! Best, Manu.

  4. I love hearing about the enthusiasm that the kids have around learning about healthy foods and making good choices! I hope you continue to have many more favourite days Amber!

  5. It was lovely to meet you last night at the GSK happy hour. I felt like I met a celebrity after reading your blogs. Proud of your acclimation into Philly and wish you the best on the rest of your journey.

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