Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Green Friday versus Black Friday

November is the official beginning of the holiday season. Stores have put up decorations and started playing Christmas music as early as November 1st. Black Friday can’t even wait until Friday anymore. My email inbox is flooded with recipes and tricks to cook the perfect turkey and make exciting yet traditional pumpkin pie. During this season of plenty, with holidays focusing on food and family, it can be difficult to think critically about food. Certainly, preparing a veritable feast for your mother-in-law can be daunting; imagine what you would do if simply buying the turkey wasn’t in your budget by the 22nd day of the month.

I live in a limited-resource community for my year of service with FoodCorps. Around 70% of our students receive free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch through the nation school lunch and school breakfast programs. In Arkansas, almost twenty percent of households are food insecure, or lack reliable access to healthy food, a level exceeding the national average. Although many people have criticized the new school food regulations, I know that many of my students don’t see such varied fresh fruits and vegetables at home. They just aren’t available at one of the two grocery stores in town. Two weeks ago, we made a raw beet and carrot salad. One student asked if they could buy the ingredients at Harp’s, and I realized I had never seen raw beets, only canned. I told her not to worry, if they didn’t have it at Harp’s she could always harvest some from the garden to take home.

Our school garden, started this year by a grant from the Delta Garden Study, currently provides both an outdoor classroom for middle school science classes to engage their curriculum in a real world setting. We also harvest for our in class recipe tastings, and there is enough for us to send home with students, faculty, and staff each Friday. In fact, right now, students are busy harvesting their own bounty to share with their families on Thanksgiving. 

 As early as spring, we hope to be harvesting salad greens, herbs and other ingredients to satisfy the volume needs of our cafeteria. Serving all our students, from preschool to high school, fresh food that many of them have watched grow is the goal. Last week, we made a veggie stir fry as our weekly recipe. We had some brown rice and ginger from the store, but everything else, greens, carrots, zucchini, onions, radishes, garlic, snap peas, and more, was fresh from the garden. Having students tend the garden beds, harvest, wash, and then help cook, makes a meal so much more meaningful. One 7th grade boy said, “If I could have a big bowl of this for lunch, I would be a happy camper.”

by Sara Fulton-Koerbling 

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