February Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Becca Roe is the FoodCorps Service Member at DC Bilingual Public Charter School in Washington, DC, where she manages the School Garden Market (in partnership with DC Greens!), and gets to plan and lead garden- and food-based educational programming. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

‘Aha’ moment: There is not one single ‘aha’ moment that comes to mind when I think about my FoodCorps service at DCB, a year and a half in — what I have instead are a million tiny moments of change at work that on their own may seem inconsequential. The kindergartener who routinely finishes her plate in order to be in the “clean plate club;” the first grader who chooses a new veggie at the salad bar; the fourth grader who asks, every day, when we can go out to the garden next. If I ever feel despair over the state of our food system, or the environment my students are inheriting, or the health injustices they’re facing — I focus on these tiny rays of hope. In my service I have the responsibility and the privilege of planting seeds not just in DCB’s spectacular garden, but also in the minds and hearts of the passionate, brave, and loving kids I work with. My deep hope is they flourish into individuals who have the tools to make informed food choices and fight for a just and equitable food system.

March Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Niraj Ray is the founder and CEO of Cultivate the City, an urban farming organization that currently helps manage the school garden programs at Miner ES, IDEA PCS and Gallaudet University, including garden- and food-based educational programming and internship programs, as well as a rooftop farm for the Washington Nationals and a rooftop garden center, H St. Farms. Niraj started as a volunteer at JO Wilson ES in 2013, where he helped start the school garden program, with a strong focus on vertical farming and strawberry growing. This month we asked him, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s his reply:

"I’m not sure I can pinpoint on exact moment that has exemplified the growing 'Farm to School' movement, but it has been amazing to see our community grow by leaps and bounds every year, as more DC students and residents become in engaged in school gardens and reaping the benefits of eating and living a healthier lifestyle. My passion over the past couple of years has been helping youth find their first jobs in the green sector- this spring we are starting an entrepreneurship program aimed helping at-risk youth find their calling through horticultural therapy and the interest has been amazing. One student took the initiative to reach out to me immediately after an information session, to learn how she could best support her vegan lifestyle- that student is now working with us part-time and helping get our rooftop garden center ready for spring. I also learned that she is an artist, and she is creating some beautiful artwork and murals for our gardens. I am enthused and motivated everyday by the gusto with which the next generation is taking up arms to create not only a just and equitable food system, but a thriving community around it."

January Farm to School Partner Highlight

 

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Emily Reckard is the FoodCorps service member at Mundo Verde Public Charter School. In her role, she runs their garden-based programming including the school garden market, family garden workdays, garden club, garden therapy, and more. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

I have loved my role with FoodCorps and the opportunity to engage students with experiential learning around food. One of my first projects at Mundo Verde was to organize a Fall Garden Workday for families. My “aha” moment came during this workday, when a student who was harvesting beans exclaimed, “this is more fun than playing!” Over the past several months, I have seen students come alive and get so excited about learning when they are outside in the garden. Being able to work in the dirt with their hands engages students' bodies and minds and allows them to experience how food grows for themselves. I look forward to continuing hands-on lessons with students in the garden and watching them come to their "aha" moments. 

December Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Kaamilah Mitchell is the FoodCorps service member at Friendship International Public Charter School: Woodridge Elementary. In her role, she helps run Friendship's School Garden Market and leads farm to school programming for students. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

My two years of working with FoodCorps in D.C have been amazing, to say the least. I've had the pleasure of working with different students of all ages and taste buds. My 'aha' moment came at the end of last school year. Throughout the year we had tried an array of different fruits and vegetables. Most kids were hesitant to try all of these unfamiliar and different foods, but by the end of the year, they were excited to try diverse things. During our last lesson and meal together one student proudly exclaimed: "This taste better than McDonald's!" It was then I realized food education and access is a marathon, not a sprint. With constant support and resources, we can transform students thinking about food. With programs like DC Greens School Garden Market, students are not only able to grow and try fruits and vegetables in school, but they are then able to buy and take these foods home to create a healthy meal. 

October Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Jordan Carter is the Education Coordinator for DC Greens and point of contact for DC Greens' School Garden Market program. In his role, he co-manages 20 Market Champions, and coordinates SGM logistics with the 14 participating SGM Managers, and the Common Market. This month we asked him, "When was your Farm to School 'aha moment?" Here's his reply:

Cultivating a school garden is a very special thing. Students, teachers, administrators, and parents alike are brought together to reap the fruits of their labor, or bliss of what their child or student was able to grow and harvest. While implementing an 8-week nutrition intervention with 90 fourth grade students in Whittier, California the students and I were able to transition an eye sore into a green space for the school community. While this intervention got many of students to think about the food growth process, nutrition, and connected them and their families to farmers in the region, I wish I could have given the students so much more.

As the Education Coordinator with DC Greens, I've been able to champion the School Garden Market program logistics with SGM Managers and the Common Market to ensure students can deepen their connection to healthy food via a student run farmers' market. Interacting with SGM managers and students during site visits to SGM's and school cafeterias across the district has enabled me to continue the work I discovered in California, and support change makers of all ages. I'm thrilled this Fall 2017 SGM season is off to a great start, and that students across the district are gaining hands on experiences growing, procuring, and selling healthy food to their school communities.

September Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Maddie Morales is the Outreach Coordinator for The Common Market and procurement specialist for DC Greens’ School Garden Market program. In her role, she partners with sustainable farmers across the Mid-Atlantic and supplies school garden markets with fresh produce. This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

While I was working for FoodCorps, I had the opportunity to work directly in schools with students of all ages to improve the culture of health through food. We cooked, tasted and tried new things in the classroom, garden and cafeteria. The more we engaged with new foods, the more student excitement grew to keep trying new things! I quickly learned that my students were curious, open and excited about foods they had never tasted before. From hummus and green smoothies, to raw lunchbox peppers and sungold tomatoes, the students were excited about trying the things they grew and made. Many students wanted to share this excitement with their families and bring recipes home to make again.

However, I soon realized that finding the fresh, tasty vegetables, like the ones growing in our school garden was much more difficult in our surrounding community. Eating local food was a novelty and only available to certain parts of the community I was a part of. This “aha” moment, led me to my work with The Common Market.

At the Common Market, we believe that fresh, local, delicious food should be readily available to all people, regardless of zip code. We work with institutions like public schools, universities, hospitals, restaurants and retailers to get more local on their menu and help make the local choice the easy choice for everyone.

I am so excited to be able to supply DC Greens’ School Garden Markets with fresh produce from our sustainable farm partners across the Mid-Atlantic so that students and their families across DC can continue to cook and eat delicious, fresh meals together.

August Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Roxanne Bentley is the Enrichment Resource Teacher and School Garden Manager at Murch Elementary. In her role, she enriches students knowledge of Farm to School, and provides an opportunity for students to strengthen their entrepreneurial skills.

This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

“Having a school market garden is a very special thing.  It attracts all types of students.  You have your business acumen types, your marketers, your garden stand sellers, but mostly you have a venue for kids to learn what it means to move produce from farm to table. And as the students at Murch have learned, it is a process that does not always guarantee a strong profit.  For example, what was a good seller one week, may or may not be the next week.  SGM created opportunities for students to be flexible in their market plans, including growing herbs so they would be super fresh for market; and handing out recipes for “unusual” vegetables.  We can’t wait to go at it again this Fall.”

July Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Jon Wirth is the School Garden Coordinator for Education Coordinator and School Garden Manager at DC Prep’s Elementary Campuses in Edgewood, Benning, and Anacostia in Washington, DC. In his role he facilitates experiential learning with a core focus on food, and produce procurement for DC Prep’s SGM program.

This month we asked him, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s his reply:

As the School Garden Coordinator for DC Prep’s Elementary Campuses in Edgewood, Benning, and Anacostia, I have the opportunity to garden with our young people every day.  We learn about water retention, germination, pollination, soil (err, “dirt”) and much else.  So much else that I’ve taken to framing our many lessons through a single lens:  food.  We don’t tackle large policy questions around food security or municipal waste streams, or ag production questions like, “How much can we produce?  How quickly can we produce it? Or, how quickly can we get it to consumers?”

Rather, I encourage our students to experience the garden in all of its gustatory wonder.  To think like worms, butterflies, and bees.  “Why are there worms in the soil?”  Food.  “Why are there insects in the air?”  Food.  “Why are we in the garden?” Food!  These are simplifications to be sure, but they serve an important purpose.  Urban gardens are science laboratories and exercise studios and centers of civic engagement.  But they are also the best chance we have for assuring that our young people have a healthy relationship to food.  My personal “aha moment” came in the last week of school.  A heat wave and impending summer thunderstorm kept us indoors.  We are in the middle of making a favorite guacamole recipe …

 

“2 cloves garlic”

Marvin’s on the garlic.

“2 juicy limes”

Nasiah’s on the limes.

Another teacher walks in, takes a whiff and asks the student next to her,

“What are you all making Duron?”

“We’re making BUG FOOOOD!”

 

I’ll take it.

June Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Victoria Mirowski is the Education Coordinator and School Garden Manager at Cultivate the City in Washington, DC. In her role, she facilitates the produce procurement and distribution for CTC run CSA programs across the city.

This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

In our garden, we strive to educate beyond the plants and produce, to cultivate an appreciation for the garden’s entire ecosystem. From the earthworms, to the bees, to the pests and diseases each component is playing a part. Thus, the teaching opportunities are endless, and with classes of eager students, I can say with confidence that I never have just one ‘aha’ moment. They happen often and my students are sometimes the best teachers.

Throughout the year, I encourage my students to watch the garden with mindfulness. A garden is a place full of smells, textures, and tastes, which can overwhelm our sense. Some of the most important moments come when we stop, cultivate presence of mind, and simply observe-what has changed, what is growing, what has died, and why? Recently during our garden time, a student led me to a peach tree to show me its leaves, certain that something was wrong. Sure enough, that student had discovered, before I had, that the tree was suffering from Leaf Curl, a disease caused by the fungus Taphrina deformans. This moment- where a student was able to observe their surroundings, pull from past observations, and draw their own conclusion- is magical.

Teaching children about fresh fruits and vegetables is central to cultivating healthier lifestyles. And teaching them to observe and appreciate all of the subtle details and interactions within the garden ecosystem makes them feel more invested and involved in the process. I have ‘aha’ moments daily, and if they never stop….neither will I.

April Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Ryoko Yamamoto is the Garden Coordinator at Capital City PCS in Washington, DC. In her role, she connects students to their local food system with environmental and garden education.

This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:

In our garden, we grow abundance of vegetables and herbs. Herbs are widely used for cooking and craft, come in many varieties, and provide students with constant discovery of something new.

Every week in July I teach lessons with new garden-based recipes for our elementary students. To begin the lesson, I asked my 4th graders a common question: “What’s your favorite vegetable or fruit?” Students called out, “Strawberries!” “Orange tomatoes!” “Cucumbers!” Then one student said, “I like the one with red flower that you can drink the nectar from”. Among all garden foods he tried past years, he chose Bee Balm, a delicate red flower and an incredibly important pollinator, attracting bees and butterflies which then pollinate the other herbs and flowers in the garden. His answer really struck me because in years past, I spent time teaching this same group of students about how honeybees collect nectar from flowers and had students mimic their behavior. They took turns sampling small amounts of the sweet and subtle nectar from the Bee Balm and this boy had remembered the lesson.

Moments like watching students use all their senses to taste and experience unfamiliar but exciting new flavors is deeply inspiring to me. When we are introduced new flavors from real foods at a young age, we create positive associations with trying new things that lasts a lifetime. Seasonality and trying these foods amongst friends in a safe and celebrated space such as a schools garden is also important. Tasting foods is an all encompassing experience and herbs (and flowers!) are a great way to expose students to new flavors.

January Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Patrick McDermott is the DC Program Manager for Common Threads. In his role, he partners with schools and community-based organizations in underserved areas across the District to teach kids how to cook and eat healthy meals.

This month we asked him, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s his reply:

Before I came to Common Threads, I worked in a few different restaurant kitchens throughout DC, and one of the biggest things I learned was that fresh ingredients are essential to putting out the best possible product. We worked directly with the farmers and producers to get fresh ingredients whenever possible because customers demand the highest quality. When I started teaching nutrition in schools as a Chef Instructor for Common Threads, I saw that schools haven’t made that same connection yet for the food they serve their students. It just seemed like common sense to me that in order to help children be the best version of themselves, then you need to make sure you feed them the best food we can offer them.

April Farm to School Partner Highlight

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Kelly Custer is a teacher in River Terrace Education Campus. As a special education teacher working with transitions aged students, my role is to provide transitions skills such as life skills and pre-employment skills to youth ages 18-22. My class has a wide array of community partnerships that provide us with real world work experience in horticulture and urban sustainability. Here is his farm to school ‘aha’ moment:

My biggest garden market 'aha' moment was turning our market to a CSA model. This really increased our sales as staff throughout the building placed orders on a weekly basis. The CSA model really turned our market into more of a business and provided youth a wider range of jobs and tasks. This allowed for students to use their strengths, preferences, and interests to contribute to the market.

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Laurie Young is a science teacher and school garden coordinator at Janney Elementary. She uses the extensive gardens at Janney to teach environmental science, food and nutrition lessons, and lead a student run school garden market. The Janney Market was one of DC Greens’ first school garden markets! Here is her Farm to School 'ha' moment:

My “Aha” is a reflective moment I had one fall day at the Janney School Garden Market.

As I watched a 2nd grader pull out her wallet and carefully select a bag of veggies, all the while telling her mom which ones she had grown in her class garden, I realized the impact our garden program has on our over 700 students and their families. Thinking about how even our youngest students learn that their actions have a global impact as they raise, tag and release monarchs and exchange letters with a partner school in Mexico to learn when their butterflies have safely arrived. How our first graders have the opportunity to raise chickens and take eggs home to their family; all the while learning about life cycles, caring for animals, and where their breakfast came from. How our 2nd graders learn about the importance of bees as pollinators as they plant pollinator gardens, observe bees in our hives, and harvest honey to take home. How every one of our students has the chance to enjoy preparing and eating fruits and veggies that they grew right in their own garden. Our weekly market provides a time for me to reflect on the impacts of these experiences. As I watch students shop for a healthy snack or for veggies for the evening meal, enjoy tastings, prepare an in-season recipe, or just walk through the gardens to see what is growing, I feel truly heartened.  At these times I have faith that we are cultivating a generation of students who know the joys of interacting with nature, are educated about healthy eating, and will take an active role in caring for our environment.