The Background of my computer screen reads: “all communities deserve access to fresh, healthy foods”. This simple and radical goal is the cornerstone of the outreach work that we do at the Edible Schoolyard.
Each Wednesday, all day, I feel the excitement of my day moving towards the 4:00 hour when I will begin to prepare for 17 students from Glenwood Youth Ministries to energetically enter the kitchen doors ready to play, read, cook, farm and eat. In September 2010 we began a weekly program with the 3rd, 4th and 5th graders who were eager to learn how to prepare food. We are in our third semester of cooking classes after spending fall ’10 with basics, spring ‘10 in an Around the World Cooking program and this fall focused on personal preference and increasing skill.
Students participating in this program have all lived in the Glenwood neighborhood, a mixed income multicultural neighborhood in south Greensboro. It is a transitional neighborhood where many families have moved from public housing to independent rental properties. Many of the student’s families struggle financially and are un/underemployed. To that end, food is an issue of justice in this neighborhood. There is a lack of access physically, educationally and economically to fresh, whole foods that make the human body function well. The food experiences that students bring are diverse: they cook with parents, eat at school, never see gardens, hate vegetables, love Wendy’s, do not have a home stove or love kale.
A unifying characteristic among all of the students is their absolute amazement in the details of preparing food. Have you ever heard the gasps that children let out when they see the inside of an egg? The squeals that they emit when they put their hands in a batch of pasta dough? The horror that strikes them when they see the ingredients that go into their beloved ranch dressing?
Through a democratic process, the students get to choose what we will cook the following week. After processing our pumpkins last week the students had a chance to choose what food we would make with them this evening. Having made savory dinners (bean and vegetable tacos with homemade tortillas and witch’s fingernail aka lima bean and veggie soup) two weeks in a row meant that sweets ruled (as they so often do) so we will be make pumpkin cookies with whole wheat flour. They will wash their hands, put on their aprons and wait for instructions at the “chef meeting”. We will examine the winter wheat outside, collect the eggs from the chickens for binding and each student will have a role in measuring and mixing. A student demonstrating responsible behavior will put the cookies in the oven and another will take them out.
The idea, here, is to cultivate a sense of pride, responsibility and self-awareness. Students leave the program having developed a compassionate, honest relationship with food, themselves, their peers and the farm.
Outreach Programs like this at the Greensboro Children’s Museum are made possible by donations to our scholarship fund. If you are interested in contributing, please contact interim CEO Marian King at firstname.lastname@example.org