Native American Heritage Month: Trying Something New

Students at Conger Elementary School left their cafeteria Tuesday with a little more knowledge on nutrition and the Native American culture.

Chartwells District Manager Hossein Akhtarkhavari made a trip from Portland, visiting school’s throughout Oregon and made a pitstop at Conger.

Chartwells is Klamath Falls City Schools food distributer, and its goal and motto are ‘Serving up Happy & Healthy.’

Akhtarkhavari was assisted by KFCS Director of Food Services, Kimberly Welles, and Megan Kirchner, OHSU dietetic intern, to help provide more insight into Native American Heritage Month, which is celebrated the entire month of November.

Akhtarkhavari, Welles and Kirchner handed out samples of corn, beans and squash to students during lunch. The effort is all a part of Chartwells’ Discovery Kitchen, a program to help introduce students to new foods every month and to try dishes which are not common.

Every month, Chartwells brings a different type of food for students to eat.

Students entered the cafeteria Tuesday and encountered a display table, which included the small sample of corn, beans and squash but also had countless vegetables and beans for them to see.

“A large percent of the students we serve in Klamath Falls, maybe 20 percent, a rough estimate, are Native American, so it was very important for us to introduce some of the Native American foods.

This is culture. It is not just food. It is how the Native Americans planted their crops. It is part of history, science and part culinary, a combination of all,” Akhtarkhavari said.

Some of the students learned for the first time the various squashes which are grown and saw spaghetti squash and acorn squash on the display table.

For many of the students, it was their first time hearing spaghetti squash can be used in making spaghetti. This was not news for Conger student, Elijah Benavidez, who spends much of his free time in the kitchen cooking.

“I love to cook. I have used corn, Chinese rice and I have used butternut squash and spaghetti squash. With the corn I made the rice and also made spaghetti. I have made brownies for a couple of my friends,” Benavidez said. “I enjoy cooking and cooking for others.”