In city neighborhoods with sky-high obesity rates, a national service program is helping schools build a new kind of classroom. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

At PS 109 in the South Bronx, students dig into their lessons. The first graders in this class say they've never been in a garden until this year, but now the school has two full-time staff members dedicated to teaching them all about food.

"Time in a school garden is one of the best ways there is, the research shows, to get kids over the hump to trying new foods," said FoodCorps CEO Curt Ellis.

PS 109 isn't paying for this extra help. Nonprofit organizations that place nutritional experts in schools are paying their salaries.

One teacher comes through Edible Schoolyard, a food education program that's been working in the city for five years. The second is a member of FoodCorps, a new branch of AmeriCorps, the federally funded national service program.

"FoodCorps provides the boots on the ground that makes it possible for schools to offer a healthier environment to the kids inside their doors," Ellis said.

The nonprofit launched in 2010 but just came to New York in September, providing 10 full-time staff members working across 20 city schools, all in neighborhoods with high rates of childhood obesity.

"You learn all about flowers and plants and foods and vegetables, where they grow from what you eat," said one student.

"I think it's really important for students to see the whole process of food production," said Amina Bahloul, a member of FoodCorps. "So it doesn't start at the grocery store. It starts well beyond that."

FoodCorps members teach cooking classes, run garden workshops and work with school cafeterias to offer healthier options.

"It takes a lot of thought to deliver great nutrition education," Ellis said. "It takes a lot of work to build a great school garden, and it takes a tremendous amount of time to transform a lunch line from serving french fries to fresh greens."

For the kids, vegetables have never been so exciting. 

"Because you get to get all dirty, and that's the fun stuff," said one PS 109 student.