My Summer as the Farm to School Intern at DC Greens
By: Lily Biggar, Farm to School Intern
I spent my summer at the DC Greens office, amidst the desks of the four program directors that make the wheels of DC Greens turn. With these talented and passionate women constantly batting ideas back and fourth, discussing program initiatives and directions, and sharing stories of success across the room, the last three months gave me valuable insight to the inner workings of a nonprofit, taught me about the successes and shortcomings of the District’s food system, and enabled me to feel a part of an exciting and growing organization.
At the office, I contributed to several of the organization’s farm to school initiatives. I developed and managed an online volunteer platform to connect DC Greens’ partner organizations with community support, compiled a list of the District’s education standards that align with farm visits to assist teachers with field trip planning, constructed produce spotlight pages for the District’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), and crafted sections of the monthly Farm to School Newsletter -and got to see my words published online!
However, my work at DC Greens was not limited to a desk at an office. I instead found myself traveling across the city to meet with government, corporate, school, and nonprofit workers. Sitting in on these meetings lent me important exposure to the multitude of different stakeholders involved in the healthy and local food movement. One outing brought me to Arcadia farm to shadow an elementary school field trip and to film clips for the farm trailers featured on our website. There, I got to witness farm to school in action. Amid rows of lettuce, rhubarb, beets, and strawberries, seven and eight year-olds made the connection between the food in the ground and the food on their plates.
On Saturdays, I experienced our food access program first-hand while dolling out bonus dollars to food stamp and WIC recipients at the Glover Park Farmers Market. And when I had a minute, I would channel my inner artist, painting butterflies and ladybugs on the faces of the market’s younger customers and made frequent trips to Whisked!, the market cookie vendor, for all-too-tempting salty oatmeal samples!
Reflecting on the last few months, I can’t believe how lucky I have been to work with such an important and inspiring organization. DC Greens has taught me so much, not only about the healthy and local food movement, but also about myself. The experience has guided me to focus my working B.A. in Environmental Policy on sustainable food systems and agriculture. There is so much to be done and I can’t wait to be a part of it!
FVRx Outreach and Education
By: Jezra Thompson, Food Access Director
Jeannette, Food Access Intern, leading a cooking demo at Unity.
DC Greens partners with Upper Cardozo Unity Health Clinic in Columbia Heights to host cooking demonstrations for families who participate in the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (FVRx). Every month, we teach participating families how to make healthy, simple, and seasonal recipes using fruits and vegetables found at our local farmers’ markets and drawing from the F(un)cook Book. It’s a great way for us to connect to those we serve through this project, and we all have a great time trying something new.
Our Food Access Intern, Jeannette Berman, lead out first cooking demonstration in Spanish to a full kitchen of native Spanish speakers in a well-lit auditorium-like space. This season, we kicked off the demonstrations with a cold tomato, basil, and avocado puréed soup. It’s a flexible recipe that could be served hot or cold, offering options and flexibility; regardless of what appliances people have in their home kitchens. This works out well for us, since we don’t have access to a stove at the Clinic, but we do have a lot of countertop space and a great blender.
Together, with the Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners that work with Unity’s We Can and FVRx programs, we chopped, crushed, peeled, and blended all of the ingredients. It was very interactive and families call out questions, like “How do you know when a tomato is ripe and ready to eat?” Like many of Unity’s community work and our food access projects, the event had a very community-oriented spirit and there were a lot of laughs and health tips passed around.
Once we were finished with combining and blending all of the ingredients, we poured tasting portion sizes of the soup into cups. Everyone was invited to taste the soup, which was a reddish brown color, fresh and with a zesty bite. Several families said that the soup’s color and texture was unusual and suggested that we add more salt. Though, once the tomato seed was planted, and a little more salt was added, several moms and dads came up for seconds, and even thirds. The kids were incredibly receptive, as well, and everyone seemed excited to try new fruits and vegetables.
When Jeannette asked if this was a recipe that everyone would make at home, several replied, “definitely.” At the end of our demonstration we asked the families what they would like to try next time, suggesting some unusual fruits and vegetables that can be found at our farmers’ markets in mid-summer, such as eggplant and radishes. Our cooking demonstrations will continue to be held on the last Wednesday of every month at Unity’s kitchen for the entire FVRx season this year. We look forward to introducing more fresh fruits and vegetables to our FVRx families and we are excited to see new and familiar faces each month.
My summer as School Garden Intern
By: Jenna Anders, School Garden Intern
This summer I was able to contribute to a number of DC Greens’ initiatives, splitting my time between the DC Greens office, Capital City Public Charter School’s garden, and the Glover Park-Burleith Farmers’ Market.
At the DC Greens office, I provided programmatic support for school garden and farm to school projects alike. I contributed on the DC Farm to School Approved field trip project by compiling lesson plans for teachers that extend farm learning in the classroom. I co-developed a series of Produce Spotlight pages to support education around the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and I established an organizational media list to support DC Greens’ communication efforts.
Each Thursday I exercised my gardening skills at Capital City PCS where I assisted Ryoko Yamamoto, School Garden Coordinator, in summer garden maintenance. Most days this meant watering, weeding, and mulching, but occasionally I was joined by some lively children to harvest garden vegetables and make fresh salsa.
On Saturdays I learned the ropes of market management at the Glover Park-Burleith Farmers’ Market. From the physical set-up and breakdown, to conversing with the vendors and customers, to assisting with DC Greens’ food accessing programming by matching SNAP (food stamp) and WIC benefits, I had the full experience. Even did some face painting! The weather always cooperated and it seemed everyone was in a perpetual good mood.
Looking back, it’s hard to believe I did so much in a part-time, summer internship and I appreciate that I was engaged in so many aspects of DC Greens’ work.
I leave DC Greens with a more nuanced understanding of urban food systems; of the areas in these systems where change is most needed and the effort involved to enact that change. It has helped shape the direction in which I want to take the rest of my college education so that I may become a more educated, equipped, and qualified advocate of stronger, healthier connections between food and urban communities.
Launching our Farm Field Trip Webpage!
By: Karissa McCarthy, Farm to School Coordinator
Farm visits are an essential part of telling the story of food. They introduce students to the person and profession farmer. They expose them to unfamiliar fruits and vegetables and reacquaint them with others in the midst of the growing process. Farms also bring school subjects alive in a tangible way. Lessons in science, math, nutrition, and history are found in the farm’s food webs, the geometrically planted rows, the farm fresh snacks, and the three sister’s plantings. Farm field trips cultivate a student’s food literacy, so that they may make informed food choices that support their health, the environment, and their local economy.
Charles Jordan of The Conversation Fund sums up their importance best. “What people do not understand, they do not value; what they do not value, they will not protect, and what they do not protect, they will lose.”
As we continue to encourage District teachers to engage their students in farm-based learning, we are thrilled to launch our Farm Field Trip webpage! On the site:
1. Our DC Farm to School Stamp of Approval given to farm field trip sites that:
– actively engage students in hands-on learning;
– expose students to a wide variety of plant and animal species;
– serve as an extension of the classroom, rooted in educational standards;
– and draw the connection between plants on the farm and food on our plates.
2. Video trailers of approved farm sites so teachers can get a complete picture of the field trip experience at each location.
3. Key info one-pagers that cover essential field trip details (location, cost, # of chaperones, etc.) for each approved site.
4. Making the Farm an Educational Experience, a guide that translates lessons on the farm into DC education standards.
5. K-12 lesson plans to prepare for and/or extend a farm field trip experience.
6. Farm to School Approval Criteria, to guide farmers in the design of their own educationally rich field trips programs.
Our hope is that these resources arm teachers with all the tools they need to locate, plan, and extend a meaningful farm to school field trip experience.
SNAP at the USDA Farmers’ Market
By: Erica Christensen, Farmers’ Market Manager
On June 7, DC Greens began an exciting new partnership with the USDA Farmers’ Market to make SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as “food stamps”) available at market. As part our Farmers’ Market Incentive Program, SNAP shoppers are able to receive up to an additional $10 in Bonus Dollars to spend at market. Located one block from the National Mall at the intersection of Independence Avenue and 12th Street, SW, the market is uniquely situated to service a wide array of customers that include government employees and tourists from all around the world! This has provided us with an exciting opportunity to both educate market goers on how to use Federal benefits at market and how DC Green is working in the community to make food more accessible for people in the District.
In mid-August, the market will host a SNAP Education Day with local representatives from the Food Nutrition Service and nonprofit, DC Hunger Solutions. During the day, customers can get more information on how to use Federal benefits at market, how the SNAP program works, find out if they qualify and get all of their questions answered. For more information on this program, please contact SNAP Manager, Erica Christensen at email@example.com.
Photo taken by Gus Schumacher at the Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market
Local Groups Applaud D.C. Council for Strengthening Farmers’ Market Nutrition Incentive Programs
More Low-income Residents will have Access to Healthier Foods
The D.C. Farmers Market Collaborative (FMC) and DC Greens applaud the D.C. Council and Councilmembers Mary Cheh, Jack Evans, and Yvette Alexander for championing the city’s allocation of $200,000 in local funds to expand and strengthen farmers’ market nutrition incentive programs.
With the passage of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget, D.C. joins other major cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Boston, in dedicating local funding for “bonus bucks” to increase food access at farmers’ markets for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as Food Stamps), WIC (Women, Infants and Children), and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) recipients.
Thousands of additional low-income residents will be able to increase the value of their federal nutrition assistance dollars at farmers’ markets throughout the District. Beginning spring 2014, a SNAP recipient who redeems $5 of benefits can purchase $10 worth of fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ markets. “This investment will help residents struggling to purchase more healthy foods on a tight budget,” said Alex Ashbrook, director of D.C. Hunger Solutions, the organization that convenes the FMC. “We applaud the D.C. Council for funding these programs that help low-income residents access nutritious foods.”
According to a report published by the Food Research and Action Center with data collected from Gallup, more than one in seven households in Washington D.C. struggled to afford enough food in 2012.
“This is a landmark moment for individual and community health in the District,” said Lauren Shweder Biel, Executive Director of D.C. Greens and a member of the FMC. “We are so grateful that the D.C. Council has emerged as a strong partner in our collective efforts to get healthy food into people’s hands and onto their plates.”
Farmers’ market nutrition incentive programs have the potential to shift the eating habits of D.C. residents by expanding the amount of local and nutritious produce low-income residents are able to access. The incentive programs also strengthen the local economy by directing city dollars to local farmers and the markets that support them.
“This money will leverage the District’s existing farmers’ market infrastructure to play a greater role in healing the city’s health crisis. We sincerely thank and commend D.C. City Council for spearheading this citywide investment,” said Biel.
The D.C. Farmers’ Market Collaborative is convened by D.C. Hunger Solutions. Since 2007, this body of representatives from farmers’ markets and anti-hunger organizations has promoted the benefits of farmers’ markets and implemented strategies to increase market capacity to serve low-income communities. The Collaborative includes, among others: Bloomingdale Farmers Market, Columbia Heights Community Marketplace, Glover Park-Burleith Farmers Market, 14&U Farmers Market, FreshFarm Markets, Mount Pleasant Farmers’ Market, Petworth Community Market, Rose Park Farmers Market, PCDC Edgewood Farmers Market and the Ward 8 Farmers’ Market.
D.C. Hunger Solutions, an initiative of the Food Research and Action Center, is dedicated to ending hunger and improving the nutrition, health, and well-being of low-income people in the District of Columbia.