On Feb. 26, Jordan Road School's family and consumer science teacher Mimi Lynch welcomed teachers, staff and members of the community into the classroom for her second of five, food-themed dinner and a movie series. Her goal: to educate the public on healthy eating and to explain that many life-threatening diseases are preventable through diet.
"Let the choice you make today be the choices you can live with tomorrow" read on a sign hanging in the front of her classroom, as a vegan meal of tomato soup, garden salad, cheese-less veggie pizza and a student-made vegan dessert was served.
"I teach kids all day long, but they're not the ones buying the food," said Lynch, who has taught at the Somers Point school for 21 years. Physical education teacher, Devon Kallen, also is helping out with the series.
This month, Lynch aired "How To Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind," a lecture by Dr. Doug Lisle.
The psychologist was a familiar face to some in the audience that night - he was featured in Lynch's first choice documentary, "Forks Over Knives," a film that explores the benefits of a plant-based diet.
Dr. Lisle described the "pleasure trap" - that tricky internal feeling to make healthy decisions, but not having support from the surrounding environment to follow through with them. The modern American society is "designed by nature" to eat highly concentrated foods and a calorie dense diet, he said.
He promised his audience that little is wrong with their body or their mind. Humans cannot alter their genetic makeup, but they can break the law of satiety, or that feeling of being completely full, he said.
A simple tip? Eat in order of the least to highest concentrated foods - meaning, start with the salad and vegetables and end with the grains and pastas.
The reasons for attending the dinner varied, and the numbers doubled from its first month, Lynch said. Some felt motivated by the first film and others wanted to lose weight. But most just wanted to learn more about the unfamiliar topic.
Teachers, retired staff, parents of former Jordan Road students, even Lynch's practicing physician, whom she was slow to recognize, sat in the audience.
"See, I don't even need to go to her anymore," Lynch, a vegan since 2009, said with a laugh.
Amy Hogan, lead health educator with AtlantiCare Foundation's Healthy School Healthy Children program, also joined the group.
During the past few years, the Jordan Road School has made a commitment to improve the health and wellness of its students and the surrounding community, Hogan said.
The school received an $800 grant from AtlantiCare in order to fund the five-part monthly series.
"This idea is just really innovative," Hogan said. "I think it's really eye-opening (in regards to) what can be done in a school setting to address health and wellness."
Lynch knows of the possibilities and said the nation is experiencing a food revolution, as tolerance is becoming more and more prevalent.
Karen Howarth, of Somers Point, parent to four former Jordan Road School students, came at the suggestion of fellow parent, Pam Miller. The two didn't go home to attempt a vegan diet, but still seemed unexpectedly enlightened.
"It's amazing how I look at food differently," said Howarth, who also attended last month's screening. She admitted to recently eating her favorite roast beef special from the local deli, but noticed that she did not enjoy it as she remembered.
"It had parents and eyes," she recalled thinking of her meal. "It just wasn't as good. It was weird."
On March 19, Lynch will show a lecture by diabetes reversal expert, Neil Barnard, in "Breaking the Food Seduction." Each month, attendees are entered to win a $50 raffle to ShopRite. All are welcome to attend.
Contact Caitlin Honan:
If you go
What: Monthly movie and dinner series
When: 6 p.m., Tuesdays, March 19, April 16 and May 28
Where: Room 112 at the Jordan Road School, Somers Point
How much: Free