June Farm to School Partner Highlight

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.
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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.



May Farm to School Partner Highlight

Malka Roth is the Lead Educator and Coordinator at City Blossoms in Washington, DC. In her role, she gets students excited about the outdoor classroom and empowers them through garden education.

IMG_6825This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?”

Here’s her reply:

My farm to school ‘aha’ moment took place several years ago while I was working in upstate New York at a non-secure juvenile detention facility. I was teaching for their summer program as well as working as an enrichment coordinator, connecting local organizations and opportunities for growth to the young men who lived at the facility.

During the summer we were able to get approval to travel to a nearby college one day a week and work with them on their newly established farm. For all of my students, most of whom came from New York City, this was a new experience.

This was also my first time stepping onto a farm. We were all blown away, finding joy in picking spicy radishes from the earth, stepping close to their beehives and bringing back yellow watermelon for everyone to enjoy. It was during those afternoons that I saw students who struggled to stay focused and engaged in the classroom excited by everything around them. It was in those moments that I began to see the potential of nature as a classroom.

 



April Farm to School Partner Highlight

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.

Ryoko

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.



March Farm to School Partner Highlight

Kristen Rowe is the Nutrition and Compliance Specialist at DCPS Food and Nutrition Services in Washington, DC. In her role, she ensures DCPS meals are compliant with the National School Lunch and Breakfast program. Learn more about her farm to school ‘aha’ moment here!

kristen

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

My farm-to-school “aha” moment came early in my career as a dietitian when I was working for the Arkansas Department of Education’s Child Nutrition Unit. I was observing my first Fresh Fruit and Vegetable program, and the kids were commenting that they had never seen a whole carrot. When I was growing up, my grandparents had a farm and a garden, so I was regularly exposed to the process of taking food from a plant to the plate. I had taken these experiences for granted, and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized not all kids have the same opportunity I had to eat fresh, nutritious foods. From that moment forward, I made it my mission to continue educating children on nutrition and the journey food takes from the garden to the kitchen to the table. The more exposure and hands-on experience kids have with growing their own food, the more likely they are to eat healthy and establish positive, lifelong behaviors.



February Farm to School Partner Highlight

Karen Davison is the FoodCorps Fellow in Washington, DC. In her role, she supports a team of 11 FoodCorps Service Members who bring healthy food and school garden education to schools across the city. Learn more about DC FoodCorps here!

This month we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:
Karen
My first year as a FoodCorps service member, I hosted monthly taste tests of seasonal produce in the cafeteria. The first month, we tried cooked carrots. Students and staff alike approached my table with apprehension and mistrust — “Why are you here?” “What are you promoting?” “Is it healthy?” One by one, they filed by the table, quickly tasting the food and casting their vote with wooden coins in a milk jug. Even with the familiarity of carrots on my side, the “loved it” bucket had very few coins compared to the politely-stated “tried it” jug.

The next month, I decided to approach the taste test differently. I was starting to build rapport with students and teachers outside of the cafeteria and was able to schedule at least a lesson per grade leading up to the taste tests. Students started seedlings, harvested what was in the garden, learned nutrition facts — all corresponding with that month’s produce in the spotlight: butternut squash.

When the day came for our second taste test, the 5th grade class helped peel and cube the squash. I set up my table in the corner of the cafeteria just as I had before, finished preparing the butternut squash and waited for the first lunch period to begin. As the first students filed in, they slowly started to notice my table. Hands went up in greeting and the air started bubbling with excitement: “Did we grow that?” “Is that from the garden?” “I wonder if we can get seconds!” The students sampled the squash and, again, cast their votes.

Although there were still plenty of “Tried it” votes, the attitude about trying food had already started to shift. Watching students get excited about new food and then talking about what they liked or didn’t like about the recipe was my Farm to School “aha” moment. Getting students involved with their food — cooking, growing, harvesting, even just touching — is immensely successful in changing student’s food preferences, choices, and attitudes.



January DC Farm to School Partner Highlight

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. patrick

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.

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