- Author: Rose Hayden-Smith
This week, UC’s Agricultural Sustainability Institute has provided opportunities for a wide range of individuals working within the food system to connect with on-the-ground projects. I had the privilege of visiting Grant Union High School’s GEO Environmental and Design Academy, which includes a gardening and cooking program. (Students learn about environmental horticulture, design and science. The interdisciplinary program also provides literature experiences that focus on food systems issues. They also learn about healthy nutrition and cooking, which is linked to the state-mandated health curriculum). I’ve admired the work of Ann Marie Kennedy, who teaches in the program, for a long time, and I leapt at the opportunity to meet her and visit with students participating in the program.
Grant Union High School is an urban high school located in Sacramento. The school is in an economically challenged area, and approximately 50% of its students are English language learners. It is a diverse student population that reflects the diversity of California and the nation. It is known statewide for the success of its football program but it’s also known across the United States for its garden and Garden Café program.
Ann Marie said something interesting about the students enrolled in the program: “They are disconnected from agriculture, but they are not disconnected from food.”
My experience at Grant proved that thesis, and mirrored the students’ lesson for that day. First we discussed agreements (safety, respect, learning from others, participating). We were asked to identify vegetables, and then given the task of harvesting specific vegetables from the garden. The model for garden management has provided a good portion of the program’s sustainability in the last ten years. It is essentially a shared school and community garden, which I believe is one of the best models for school garden sustainability. Community gardeners have individual plots, but assist in the school garden areas. Some of the community gardeners have children or grandchildren enrolled at Grant, but others are connected to the school simply through their love of gardening and the opportunity to cultivate food.
After we harvested the vegetables, we came inside. We also received lessons taught by a student, Adrian, and a former student who now serves as a mentor, Ja Thor. Adrian taught us about knife and cutting safety (absolutely one of the best kitchen demonstrations I’ve ever seen). Ja explained how the color-coded cutting boards worked, exploring the concept of food cross-contamination with us.
The visitors worked alongside the students to wash and chop the vegetables and prepare lunch in the wonderful kitchen, which was funded by a grant from Kaiser. While some cooked, others set the communal table or washed dishes. When lunch was ready, we sat down and ate a healthy chicken and vegetable chow mien with a garden-fresh salad loaded with extras, like fruit. We were also given the opportunity to sample Grant’s salsa, which is sold commercially, and provides a real-life business incubator for seniors enrolled in the program.
The lunch was, simply, amazing. Not only the food, but the chance to speak with students and learn about how the program has influenced their lives. All of them expressed that they have appreciated the opportunities for leadership that the program provides. (And in fact, the onsite program manager, Fatima Malik, who works for the Health Education Council in partnership with Grant High School, is a graduate of the program. She went on to study nutrition at UC Davis, and is now working at Grant. The program is also “staffed” by student volunteers from UC Davis. Students enrolled in the program have opportunities to serve as leaders in various capacities. The entire program provided a superb example of nested leadership and mentoring opportunities for youth).
The students also noted that they are eating more fruits and vegetables. Some of them are primary shoppers and food preparers in their families, and the result is that their families are also consuming healthier foods. Nearly all of the students related taking what they had learned in the classroom home, and shared with pride anecdotes about cooking for family members, including parents and grandparents. They expressed that the program provides a new way for them to look at what they do at home. Each said that participation in the program has helped them build relationships, and that they find acceptance in the program.
After lunch, each visitor had an opportunity to sit with students and ponder several reflection questions. I asked students what they wanted people to know. One student said we need to consider the value of buying local. Another wanted to share the health benefits of fruits and vegetable consumption. Yet another student wanted people to know that fruits and vegetables “aren’t nasty if you make them right.” (This same student told me he likes fruits more than vegetables, but aspires “to travel the world to find a veggie to fall in love with.”)
You can learn more about the program by reading this newspaper article, which appears in the Davis Enterprise.
I left my visit with an enormous sense of gratitude for the work of staff at Grant Union High (particularly Ann Marie and Fatima). I also left with a profound sense of awe for the students whom I spent half a day with. I have a great deal of confidence and hope in a future that includes their leadership.
But I also left with the idea that this exceptional program ought not to be the exception, but rather, the norm. If we are truly committed to a healthy future and a healthy nation, we need upstream programs like this, that provide opportunities for youth engagement with soil, healthy food, and mentors who will encourage their leadersh
- Author: Rose Hayden-Smith
Kids, Submit Your Own "Vision Video" for Food Independence Day
If you know a youth that has a green thumb, thinks growing food in your own garden is cool, or is a lover of fresh, healthy vegetables, organizers of "Food Independence Day" want you to submit a "vision video" sharing "Why I'm a Victory Grower." Is your dream to become a farmer and spend your days outside in the field? Do you hope to one day feed others with the food you grow? That makes you a Victory Grower, and one of hundreds of thousands of kids who realize growing your own food is fun, healthy and patriotic.
Food Independence Day is a grassroots group of individuals encouraging others to celebrate this 4th of July and the entire summer by eating food grown locally. The "Why I'm a Victory Grower" video campaign is a way for kids who love garden food to share their stories and celebrate food independence. I'm proud to be part of this collaborative effort.
To participate and receive a free one-year membership and a packet of seeds from Seed Savers, log on to TEL*A*VISION (www.telavision.tv) to access the free tools that will help you easily create a vision video. Tell us why you're a Victory Grower and how that affects who you want to be and what you want to do in the future. Maybe you just really like playing in the dirt, but deep down, gardening, farming or otherwise raising good food supports the American economy, preserves natural resources and can help stamp out hunger.
Tell us your "Why I'm a Victory Grower" story by September 1, and your vision video could be one of five selected to be shown to important leaders in the good food movement at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) Food and Society Fellows Summit in Washington, D.C., September 9-11, 2009.
Creating your vision video is fun and easy. Take photos of your garden, the fresh vegetables on your dinner plate, the farmers market or community garden, local farms or choose from free images from the Food and Society Fellows flickr site(http://www.flickr.com/photos/fasfellows/favorites) and combine them with music and graphics from the TEL*A*VISION Web site. Most importantly, make the video your vision by sharing your ideas, experiences and goals for the future. Just watch the easy-to-follow tutorials at www.telavision.tv/tutorials or visit http://foodindependenceday.org/post/116892037/telavision for instructions.
Submit your finished video to the Food Independence Day group on TEL*A*VISION at http://www.onetruemedia.com/gallery/food_independence_day. Check it out to see sample videos and begin creating your own. For more information on kids gardening and victory gardens, visit
National Gardening Association Site
University of California
THAT'S MY PAGE!
4-H Junior Master Gardener Program
Cornell Garden-Based Learning
University of California Master Gardeners - school gardens
ABOUT THE "WHY I'M A VICTORY GROWER" PROJECT
The "Why I'm a Victory Grower" project was created as part of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy's (IATP) Food and Society Fellows' Food Independence Day campaign, in partnership with TEL*A*VISION. The goal of the project is to empower children to cultivate healthy lifestyles by growing and eating fresh, whole foods and to directly involve them in the themes of Independence Day - victory and patriotism through growing their own food. Some of my best Good Food friends have been involved: Lisa Kivirist, Angie Tagtow, Roger Doiron (Eat the View), and Fred Bahnson, an emerging voice of the food and faith movement.
Rekindling the World War I and World War II victory garden campaigns to build hope and positive thinking among American families, the project taps the creativity of children nationwide by calling on them to create and share short "vision videos" online about how gardening, raising good food, soil stewardship and preserving natural resources can transform the food system in communities and the world. The "Victory Growers" theme additionally enables kids to explore related, integral themes beyond the garden to cultivate independence through other sustainable lifestyle choices.
You know this is what I'm all about. I hope you'll help children you know and love be about this, too, this summer.
ABOUT THE FOOD INDEPENDENCE DAY CAMPAIGN
The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) Food and Society Fellows' Food Independence Day campaign (www.FoodIndependenceDay.org) was developed to raise public awareness and media attention to the importance of home gardening and related resources as well as to introduce broader issues of personal health and nutrition, self-reliance, sustainability and independence and how these concepts relate to a good, healthy food system and public health.
TEL*A*VISION, a partnership between George Johnson and Haberman (www.modernstorytellers.com), a national brand public relations firm, was formed to help create a world that works for all. Its purpose is to counteract negativity by promoting visions of hope and possibility among youth throughout the world. For more information, or to create and share a vision for a better world, visit www.telavision.tv.
A group of us have been working with Haberman this year. They are a socially-conscious public relations firm, and I've enjoyed the collaboration with them on this project immensely.
ABOUT SEED SAVERS EXCHANGE
Seed Savers Exchange is a nonprofit, member-supported organization that serves its members, and the public, through its charitable mission of safeguarding our food future by saving and sharing the world's diverse but endangered garden heritage. Founded in 1975, Seed Savers Exchange is the largest non-governmental seed bank in the United States. The 890-acre Heritage Farm is located in Decorah, Iowa, and permanently maintains many thousands of rare and endangered vegetable varieties. The collection includes varieties native to the Americas, plus many more seeds brought to the United States by members' ancestors who immigrated from the far corners of the world. For more information, visit www.seedsavers.org.