Jordan Carter, DC Greens Food Access Fellow
As a California native, you may be wondering how I discovered DC Greens. While pursuing my bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Nutrition Sciences, I took a course titled “Current Topics in Health” which opened my eyes to the need for food justice advocates addressing chronic disease prevalence in the United States. After researching nonprofit organizations across the country working on these issues, I found DC Greens. Last summer I worked with DC Greens as a School Garden Army Intern at Tyler Elementary School while also working with DC Central Kitchen as a Local Food Intern. Immediately I was interested in “breaking the chain” in chronic disease development by connecting students to their local food system through food production, nutrition education, and physical activity. My internship activities with DC Greens and DC Central Kitchen introduced me to the food activist movement in the nation’s capital that’s working on food access, food policy, and food education.
After returning to Whittier College for my senior year, I was determined to share the knowledge I acquired in D.C. with the children in Whittier, California. I created and implemented an 8-week nutrition intervention curriculum involving nutrition education, garden education, and food demonstrations at Hoover Elementary School. Through this program, all fourth graders at Hoover Elementary learned how to grow their own food in the school’s garden and learned about the importance of nutrition through hands on exhibitions. Students applied their baseline knowledge to make connections with local farmers and food activists including Robert Egger, the founder of DC Central Kitchen and LA Kitchen, in order to have a greater understanding of real world applications and opportunities in the food system. By assessing students before and after the intervention, we were able to show that students increased their nutrition and garden knowledge significantly over the course of the program.
Upon completion of my bachelor’s degree, I was eager to return to DC to gain more experience working with families in underserved communities. This summer, I returned to DC Greens as the Food Access Fellow and had a bird’s eye view of the Produce Plus Program while working closely with market managers, volunteers, and DC residents to expand food access across the city.Throughout the summer I provided technical support for the new Produce Plus app technology, implemented line management best practices, fostered the creation of inclusive spaces for all DC residents, and trained over 300 Farmers’ Market Brigade volunteers who distributed $550,000 in Produce Plus! Additionally, I gained first hand experience with the interwoven social injustices that surround food insecurity and the challenges citizens have to face in order to secure healthy foods for their families. I encouraged DC residents to contact their city councilmembers and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners to advocate for institutional change and increased support for food access programs.
DC Greens has inspired me to challenge structural inequalities and strive for equity rather than equality based programming. DC Greens collaborates with federal organizations, private organizations, nonprofit organizations, and community members to increase awareness of social determinants of health and work towards a more just food system. My experience this summer reaffirmed my desire to work on justice issues as an advocate for policies that improve the quality of life for all citizens regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, and socio-economic status.
Lola Bloom is the Operations Manager and Wellness Coordinator at DC Bilingual Public Charter School. In her role, she oversees food service and promotes nutrition and garden- based education for students, staff and families. She is a co-founder of City Blossoms, a nonprofit dedicated to fostering healthy communities by developing creative, kid-driven green spaces and innovative resources.
This week we asked her, “When was your Farm to School ‘aha’ moment?” Here’s her reply:
I have thought a lot about this, and I have to say that I have been doing this for so long that it’s super hard to think of one aha! moment. My favorite moments have always been when I get to stand back and learn something new from participants in a workshop. An example of this was years ago when I was working with a weekly middle-school group at Marion St. We always found it challenging to get middle schoolers engaged and enthusiastic in the lessons, no matter how clear the instructions or how cool we thought the project was. After some frustration I thought grumpily “Well, if they are so hot, maybe THEY should teach the class”. And the next time I planned my first iron-chef style competition, where the kids were divided in two teams, given the same ingredients and a recipe, and told to make it themselves without my help. I changed my role to scorekeeper for the teams on presentation, cleanliness, and team work, set the timer for 30 minutes and let them go. The kids loved it, and completely dove into the lesson with zero behavior issues. Nobody sat and sulked or acted up. At the end, both groups not only successfully made the recipe, but made beautiful versions that they were incredibly proud of and couldn’t wait to eat. And I barely had to do anything besides watch! Of course the kids demanded we do this again and again. Experiences like this remind me that the most valuable learning is a two-way exchange, and that independence is just as important as instruction.
Melissa Herendeen, OFNS Compliance Associate for DC Public Schools
1. There’s a new crew in town: SodexoMAGIC has joined in serving students at 100 of our schools. They offer a fresh perspective, a wide variety of meal options to empower students in making healthy choices every day, and educational tools to make lasting impact beyond the cafeteria!
2. DC Central Kitchen is also continuing to do their amazing work, this year in 12 schools, primarily in Ward 7. We look forward to seeing the happy faces, nourished minds, and thriving students across the District!
3. Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP) will kick off in select schools this October and we cannot wait to hear the response from students as they sample unique fruits and vegetables throughout the school year. Food and Nutrition Services want to help school’s run this program to its fullest potential so reach out (firstname.lastname@example.org) and let’s partner up to see how creative we can be!
4. Mark your calendars: Our first International Food Day of the school year is coming on November 3rd! You won’t want to miss the cuisine that highlights the country of Bahrain on breakfast and lunch menus!
5. Last but not least, let’s get social! Find DCPS Food and Nutrition Services on Twitter @DCPSEats and like us on FB @DCPSFoodServices so we can hear from you directly and work together to make this year the best yet!
Madeleine Carnemark, Pollinator Program and Policy Coordinator at the Center for Food Safety
The Center for Food Safety’s Pollinator Program is dedicated to working with DC schools to expand pollinator education and foster an appreciation for the value that native bees and other pollinators contribute to our food supply and environment. After working with and soliciting feedback from teachers, garden coordinators, and administrators across the DC region, Center for Food Safety developed a Pollinators and the School Garden Toolkit. This toolkit includes classroom and garden activities, informational learning guides, and hands on projects. If you are interested in learning more about the toolkit, other educational resources that Center for Food Safety can supply, or ways to incorporate pollinator education into your lesson plans, please reach out to Center for Food Safety’s pollinator team at email@example.com.
“For the past few years, we’ve all been exposed to media stories detailing the truly devastating plight of honeybee colonies. However, until Madeleine Carnemark and Larissa Walker arrived at our DC Greens Growing Garden Teacher’s training last year, I hadn’t heard anyone clearly explain the distinction between honeybees and “native” bees, and the unique and important role played by each species. Inspired by their presentation, my students and I now enjoy visiting our garden and observing and identifying the patterns and behaviors of our native bees. To be honest, I had no idea how wide a variety of native bees inhabit our garden. And taking the time to quietly observe them has been a great way to defuse the fear of bees many children harbor, and understand how important they are for us and our food supply.” – Margi Fineran, FoodPrints lead teacher at School Within a School
Each month our K Street Farm team has been testing out new recipes for the season. Spencer and Jamal, our Farmer Trainees, share some strong food memories and reflect on the new eats they’ve been cooking up!
Coconut cake has to be one of my favorite types of cake. My god mother, Nettie Dupree, use to make the best coconut cakes from scratch. She use to add pineapples to the cake and make it three layers. Every Thanksgiving I would make a special trip to her house for a piece of cake, not just any piece of cake but her homemade coconut cake. She would put my piece of cake to the side because she knew no matter what I was going to stop by and get it. I tried to make it once and it just wasn’t the same. Oh how I miss her and her homemade coconut cake.
Cooking with DC Greens has been a very awesome experience. We have prepared 3 dishes from scratch so far and all three were new to me. I love to try new things and this is a great opportunity to try and learn new recipes. So far my favorite would have to be the first dish we made. It was corn tortillas w/spinach filled with avocado, lime juice, refried beans and cilantro. The dish was so good I had to try it at home and it was just as good as the first time.
I have been fond of cooking ever since I was a child, helping family members prepare meals for different occasions and holidays. One of my fondest memories is helping family members prepare a seafood dish that everyone enjoys every time we cook it. It’s a fettuccini noodle dish made with various different seafoods – shrimp, real blue crab meat, and crawfish in a white sauce made of horseradish, cream blended with parsley and minced garlic. I’m from New Orleans so seafood is normal part of your diet there.
I’ve really enjoy learning new healthy recipes with DC Greens. I have prepared three dishes already, that I can add to my diet. I am a health conscious eater anyway, so I am very appreciative to learn more meals to prepare at home. The first meal that l’ve made was a bean tortilla recipe. We made a spinach tortilla form scratch, that was real interesting to infuse spinach in the tortilla, I have never seen that before. It was really delicious.
The Spring Dig, our 2nd annual spring benefit dinner, is just two weeks away and we’ve got an amazing line-up of local chefs cooking up a family-style spread.
One of these stars – Bettina Stern, Co-Founder of CHAIA Farm-to-Taco – shares her thoughts on the beauty of a peach, the power of a simple sauce, and CHAIA’s commitment to the environment.
Why do you cook?
I enjoy it. It gives me pleasure and it supplies others with the same sensual gratification. For me, cooking is almost a meditative experience and I often do it to relax.
What’s your spirit fruit or vegetable and why?
Summer ripe peaches not only celebrate my favorite time of year, but they “wow” and remind me to savor the moment. A peach is outgoing, frank and ambitious, yet sweet and fuzzy all at the same time.
What’s the best cooking tip you would give to a novice?
Learn how to make a few simple sauces to have on hand in your fridge; they can dress up almost anything. Whipping up a good sauce can make things a bit easier for when you do have to cook. They can be kept for several days after you make them and are a simple way to turn something thrown on the grill or roasted in the oven into something new. Combinations I like – olio picante (spicy) or soy-ginger sauce with grilled fish, fresh tahini sauce with grilled meat, or any one of the three to finish roasted or grilled vegetables.
What do you see as the biggest road blocks in creating a healthy, local food system?
I would like to see the U.S. government supporting sustainability in the food system with a farm bill that better aids the small-scale farmers: those folks growing human-consumption crops, not the commodity crops. Also an ecologically-focused Organic Foods Production Act that would help support organic farmers.
How does your restaurant impact the food system?
Our restaurant is 100% plant-based. Want to save the environment? Eat more plants. Ditching meat is more important than buying local. Meat production requires so much water it’s hard to fathom. One pound of potatoes takes 99.6% less water to produce than pound of beef and 97% less than a pound of chicken. Full disclosure: I am not a vegetarian, but I do eat mostly plants.