Much in the world of fresh vegetables, homemade wontons and poached chicken was foreign to student Rafael Alvirde, until he became part of a new LAUSD program in which students create fresh, healthy salads and serve them to their peers.
"I am noticing things that I never even knew they existed," Alvirde said.
He, like nearly 80 other students, is participating in a one-of-a-kind program at the Santee Education Complex in South Los Angeles. As a result, they're eating in a whole new way, and not only at school.
"I started telling my mom to buy me more lettuce, and all of the ingredients," said senior Imelda Morales.
The program is the vision of restaurateur Melissa Nicola of Nic's Beverly Hills.
"I just want to bring healthy, affordable food to the masses, and I just see that there's a real need in this community," Nicola said. "Obesity and diabetes are prevalent."
Nicola along with chef Lisbeth Caiaffa volunteer their time and work alongside school chef Brett Boultinghouse. He picks fresh herbs at the school's teaching garden on site for the next meal.
"We got every kid certified with a food handlers card, so every kid knows about food safety," Boultinghouse said.
The students make 50 fresh salads and sell them at lunchtime on Wednesdays — and the greens go fast.
"The third time we did it, they were fighting for the spots to get a salad," Alvirde said.
Nicola said the culinary students's culinary skills are developing, which may do more than just help them eat better.
"Quite honestly, I'd like to see them leave here and just go off and start their own business if they could," Nicola said.