RICHMOND HEIGHTS, Ohio — For the past few years, students at Richmond Heights High School have had the chance to learn a lot more about the food they eat and how to prepare it for themselves.
At Saucisson in Slavic Village, the Richmond Heights High School Culinary Club is introduced to their lunch in a way they never have been before.
"Here's it's heart," said Penny Barend as she lays the heart on the parts of a pig she and Melissa Khoury have displayed on a table.
"The Lady Butchers," as they call themselves, were hosting the club to their butcher shop, teaching them about how nearly every part of a pig can be turned into some kind of delicacy.
"It expands your mind," said culinary club adviser and Richmond Heights English teacher Jaclyn Davey.
Experiences like this one are why Davey started the club.
"We live in a society that needs to be a little more socially-conscious, in general, about everything pertaining to food," said Davey.
The Centers for Disease Control say childhood obesity has tripled in the last 40 years. Today, the CDC says one of every five students is above a healthy weight.
At the same time, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank says more than 300,000 people in our region don't know where their next meal will come from.
Meanwhile, many of the families who send their students to Richmond Heights High School are fighting to make ends meet.
"In general, our population, and our school district, we don't have a lot of funds," said Davey.
That often means fast food is an easy answer for a meal, but Junior Josephine Gates know it's not healthy, or cost-effective.
"You're going to want to learn how to cook on your own, like you can't spend money on food every day," said Gates. "That's expensive."
The Culinary Club has given students like her and Jordan Greene a chance to know what other food options they have.
"You just get a wider variety of things to taste on your palette, how to cook stuff that you never probably even touched," said Greene.
Greene says she never really cooked before, but after joining the club, she makes meals for herself and her family.
It's possible because the club takes over a kitchen at Faith United Church of Christ, giving students hands-on experience making food that's better for them.
"It's laughing and giggling and helping each other and it's literally like having 20 family members trying to cook at one time and it's amazing," said Davey.
When those students go back home, those skills go with them.
"They expose their siblings and their friends to all of this," said Davey. "They're going home and taking that knowledge and having that conversation with their parents."
This story is part of A Better Land , an ongoing series that investigates Northeast Ohio's deep-seated systemic problems. Additionally, it puts a spotlight on the community heroes fighting for positive change in Cleveland and throughout the region. If you have an idea for A Better Land story, tell us here .