In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I do in my service and why. In this, and most aspects of my life, it comes down to food. I love eating and sharing food with others. I see food as a unique way to build and support community. I get to work with a bunch of twelve year olds to grow, harvest, cook, and eat food; that makes me fee pretty lucky.
Throughout elementary school, I ate hot lunch in the cafeteria. My memories of those meals are not particularly fond. When I got to high school, however, the dining services department was spectacular. We had a salad bar that listed the origins of most of our produce. Living in California, we had farmers growing delicious fresh produce year round. Since I read about who grew this food as I loaded up my plate, I really appreciated eating it. That was the first time I experienced awesome school food that wasn’t pizza or tater tots. When I look back at my food memories, that salad bar always surfaces.
|The makings of carrot, beet and ginger salad.|
I hope that the work I do with kids here, the work they put into growing food, and the times we share eating it, will become a part of their food memories. I think I’m doing a pretty good job of getting some kids excited about the weird food I make them eat*. I teach one group of students on Monday and Tuesday, then the second half of the middle school on Wednesday and Thursday. Mid-day Monday, I already have kids in the Wednesday and Thursday groups asking, “Are we going to eat anything in the garden this week?” When they see me schlepping down the hall with bowls and cutting boards and the last lukewarm sample, I have to constantly remind people that I would never exclude them from a tasting. Not every kid likes everything we try. Secretly, I make them try things I don’t even like.
When the first kid in a class asks tentatively if they can have seconds, then thirds, then commandeers the rest of the bowl, I sit back and appreciate (and hope) that they will remember that day too.
*one of our main garden rules is that you have to try everything at least once.