Saturday, July 28, 2007

Garden Planning at Ida B. Wells' Summer School

This past month, I worked with 30 summer school students at Ida B. Wells Continuation HS on a project to redesign and improve our garden. First we completed a mapping exercise, observing and plotting existing vegetation and garden features. Next, each student created a design of their "dream garden"; we encouraged them to be creative and envision what they could put in the garden that would contribute to the school. Many of the students added areas to sit and relax in the garden, which are sorely needed! Other features common to many of the designs were ponds and fruit trees. One very creative student wanted to put an outdoor seating area with a stage for the graduation ceremony! A couple of their plans:

We also went on a field trip to Garden for the Environment, so that students could see a well-established community garden and choose plants that they like. GFE was a big hit and gave us lots of ideas for how we can improve the school garden in the future. A few of the students were obsessed with the lamb's ear plants!

In our last week, we got dirty working in the garden and put in some improvements! We cleared out an unused slope adjacent to the vegetable beds, built a retaining wall out of recycled concrete and created a small habitat garden of perennials and California natives. We also planted some shade tolerant plants in another area of the garden, and painted garden signs for our vegetable crops!

Here is a photo of the habitat area we put in:

Friday, July 20, 2007

Summer Program Last Day Party!

The last day of the Summer Program we hosted our most successful Garden Party yet! Youth participants in the program invited their families, friends and teachers to visit the Garden for the Environment and see all the amazing work the youth have done!! More than 75% of youth brought family to the garden - this is HUGE, compared to the less than 10% turnout we usually get for our garden parties during the school year. Teachers from MLK Middle School and June Jordan attended, as did Ross Mirkarimi, District 5 Supervisor.

What incredible work did the youth showcase at the Garden Party? Well, the youth taught us about . . .

Soil Health: John and Julius showed parents how to save seeds from native plants at the GFE and to sow them in window boxes and home gardens. John gathered the seeds from the garden himself - he learned how to identify mature seed pods ready to be harvested!

Families took home seeds to grow swiss chard, native Hooker's Evening Primrose, and Foxgloves. You can buy window boxes like the ones we used at your local Cole Hardware, or make them from scrap wood like old dresser drawers!

Eating Healthy at Home: Muawattia, Andre, Delvin and Suzi harvested and prepared veggie stir-fry with rice for everyone, and served it up hot! Everyone enjoyed those fresh and healthy greens.

This group also made a poster listing these ways we can all make healthier choices:
  • Exercise and eat healthy including: bananas, strawberries, greens, apples, sweet peas, collard greens
  • Choose whole food over processed food. Why? Because you will know what is in your food that can help you and not kill you slowly.
  • Replace sweets with another kind of healthy food.
  • Check Food Labels before you buy foods.
  • You should have no more than 48 grams or 12 teaspoons of sugar in one day.
Where Our Food Comes From: Ellie, Walter, Angel and their group compared the environmental impact of a locally grown orange to the impact of buying orange juice grown in Florida or Brazil, which is shipped, processed and shipped again, using petroleum resources all the way.

They calculated that a local orange grown in Fresno travels 187.55 miles to you, while orange juice travels from 2,948 to 10,000 miles, depending if it is grown in Florida or Brazil.

The group gave us this statistic, from the CA Center for Public Health Advocacy, and they introduced us to the San Francisco Local Foods Wheel, a beautiful tool that tells you what locally-grown foods you can buy here and when they are in season.

Zero Waste: Last but certainly not least, Oscar, Alex, Ahmed and Kochise taught all the visitors how to divert waste from the landfill by recycling at home! They gave out green kitchen pails and the phone numbers to call to get your green bin and blue bin set up at home, so the City can collect your recyclables and compostables. Even more exciting, they gave out home worm bins and taught families how to compost food scraps without the waste even leaving home.

We ventured into the GFE's deep, dark worm bin to dig some fat, shiny red wrigglers for the visitors to take home. We even saw a couple of mating pairs!!

The youth did such an AMAZING job teaching their families all about the garden. They gave tours, showed off the beds they planted, tasted, smelled and touched the now familiar plants with their younger siblings, and had fun in this beautiful green outdoor space.

A HUGE Thank You to all the youth and their families who participated in the Summer Program and our Last Day Garden Party. Thanks a MILLION to the wonderful youth staff (Claire, Ellie, Julius, Oscar and Antoine) who made it happen!!

We at Urban Sprouts are SO VERY appreciative of our partnership with the Garden for the Environment and the opportunity to work with Suzi and Blair! Thank you!!

For more photos of the Summer Program, click here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer Program . . . at Work!

Youth in the Urban Sprouts & GFE Summer Program not only enjoyed the garden, learned, cooked, played and had fun, but they also worked hard!! Physical work can be so rewarding and makes your body feel strong and healthy. Here are some great photos of summer program youth hard at work in the garden!

Weeding & clearing:Preparing the Compost:
Sowing seeds:
And . . . Relaxing!

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Understand High Fructose Corn Syrup?

How can foods be labeled "All Natural" when a main ingredient is high fructose corn syrup? Read Britt Bravo's great recent post about this here: "When is Natural Food Natural?"

One of her readers offered these excellent links with more resources on understanding corn syrup:

Shaping Youth's counter-marketing campaign on Capri Sun ("liquid candy")
UCSF scientific article on the scary effects of fast food and high fructose corn syrup
Food Facts list of foods that contain high fructose corn syrup
Accidental Hedonist posts about high fructose corn syrup

And read this article about the Farm bill and corn subsidies from the SF Chronicle today:
The New Food Crusade

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Youth Chefs are Cookin

Today at the GFE Summer Program, we made a special meal. Rania from NextCourse visited the garden as a guest chef, and taught Ahmed, Alex, Kochise, Oscar and me to prepare this menu:
Garden salad with freshly made vinaigrette
Cooked greens with caramelized onions, garlic and vinegar
Breaded chicken tenders with housemade ranch dip
We harvested salad greens, kale, chard, garlic, parsley and oregano from the garden. (John helped us out a bit.)

Ahmed and Alex chopped all the herbs and veggies, while Oscar made the ranch dip.

Kochise breaded and seasoned the chicken pieces, and then he, Alex and Rania did all the frying!

I prepared the salad greens, and did dishes! Rania taught us how to chop with that professional technique. It was a delicious meal! One of our best yet! The recipe will be available in our summer program cookbook.

The finished product: