Network Charter School offers hands-on culinary arts program

Network Charter School in Eugene is a free public charter school that offers hands-on community-embedded classes as an alternative middle and high school for those in grades 7-12.

Among the programs at Network Charter School, at 2550 Portland Street, is the Le Petit Gourmet career and technical education certified culinary arts program. The school is spread out over four sites in the Eugene community depending on the course choice of the individual student.

Students in the culinary arts courses prepare breakfast and whole food gourmet lunches daily for the student body with ingredients they receive from FOOD For Lane County. As an example of the partnership with FOOD For Lane County, Carly Rodgers, one of the Network Charter School’s culinary teachers, recently told FFLC Executive Director Tom Mulhern that that day’s breakfast oatmeal bars were prepared with oats from FFLC. That day’s lunch of brown rice, chicken adobo and jicama salad also came mostly from ingredients from FFLC.

Network Charter School students learn everything about running a kitchen and a business in the culinary arts classes. There is a school pantry for the students and their families, and every Friday students can choose to take home a bag of food for the weekend, if desired.

Rodgers says she appreciates the partnership with FFLC. When the school started shopping for food at FFLC, their food purchasing expenses went from $14,000 to $3,000. For meals, they follow a five-week cycle of regional cuisines (Eastern Asian, Eastern European, Mediterranean, etc.). Rodgers is resourceful in turning FFLC food ingredients into healthy meals that young people like.

The culinary CTE courses at the Network Charter School prepare students for the first year in Lane Community College’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management program, as well as for a job in the food service industry.

The Network Charter School meal program demonstrates a wonderful synthesis of FFLC food, public education, and creative leadership.