SOMERS POINT — A tray of pink, frosted cupcakes topped with Sweetheart candies sat on the desk in the main office. Handmade heart-shaped valentines hung in the hallways, and most of the students and teachers at Jordan Road School were dressed in some version of red or pink.

Love was in the air Thursday, the day before Valentine’s Day. Mimi Lynch, the family and consumer science teacher, had a holiday-themed cooking demonstration for her students.

Kidney bean and couscous salads were on the menu. “Heart healthy,” Lynch said, explaining the clever spin on the love-themed lesson.

“Heart disease is the No. 1 killer in America, and prevention is key,” Lynch told the seventh-graders gathered around a stove-top counter in her classroom chopping cilantro, rinsing kidney beans and cooking the couscous.

“I get so upset when I see people walking to raise money for this disease and that disease, but what they really need to do is walk down the produce aisle of the grocery store,” she said. “ We have to love our bodies.”

Lynch, a vegetarian, teaches purely plant-based cooking lessons, many of which are made by using the produce and herbs grown in the school garden outside her classroom window. Her goal is to inspire her students to chose and enjoy healthy foods — and it’s working.

“When you have seventh-grade boys basically licking the bowl of couscous, I call that a success,” she said.

Seventh-grader Samantha Wilezol, who was on her second serving of the salad Thursday, said she was surprised she liked it.

Jesse Bishop, a seventh-grade wrestler, said he tries to eat healthy foods to stay strong and in shape for his sport.

Last week, the class made “ugly dip” with smashed black beans, salsa and herbs, which he “loved.” He plans to make it again at home.

“You can still have cake and stuff but in moderation,” Bishop said, repeating a little lesson he had learned from Lynch.

Contact Elisa Lala:

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Been working with the Press for about 27 years.