Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Urban Sprouts feeds journalist Michael Pollan at Turning the Tables!

photo: students at Excelsior Middle School harvest kale

Turning the Tables is series of events at Fort Mason that brings key environmental, farming, health, and policy-making figures to the table to discuss critical food and environmental issues. These "working dinners" feature guest speakers, interactive discussions, and cuisine from the area's top chefs.

The premier event on Oct. 26th, "The Perfect Dinner", featured journalist Michael Pollan, (author of The Omnivore's Dilemma) and included veggies grown in Urban Sprouts' gardens! Pollan and others munched on kale and cucumbers grown by students at Excelsior Middle School, June Jordan School for Equity, and MLK Middle School. Pollan is a great advocate for locally grown, organic food and we feel honored to have participated in this event!

Partying in the garden!

On October 20th and 27th, we held our fall garden parties at the MLK Middle School and Excelsior Middle School gardens! Both were loads of fun - students, teachers, and volunteers worked on garden projects such as planting, weeding, building bean teepees, and sheet mulching. We ended the parties by harvesting veggies and cooking lunch together!

At MLK students cooked up a peanut stir-fry and sunchoke salad, and at Excelsior we had cheese quesadillas and salsa fresca. At both events we made a delicious sun tea with lemons and herbs fresh from the garden. Yum!
Here are some photos of the events:

Friday, October 26, 2007

JJSE's Digital Food Map

Students in the Food Class at June Jordan created this digital map using Google maps. Each student mapped the four places they go most often for food - including grocery stores, corner stores, farmers' markets, fast food joints, and more. (Note: this map represents the places we CHOOSE to eat, not all the available food places we have access to.)

Blue marker = student's home
Red marker = place to get unhealthy food
Green marker = place to get healthy food

View Larger Map

San Francisco has 3.85 times more unhealthy food options than healthy food options, according to the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. Their study counted unhealthy options like fast food restaurants and liquor stores selling junk food and compared them to healthy options like grocery stores and farmers markets. We did better than Sacramento, with 5.66 times more unhealthy options, but worse than Santa Cruz with 1.84.

How does our class's map of our shopping choices relate to this fact about food access? Respond to these questions in the comments section:

  1. What do you notice when you look at the map overall?
  2. Are there more healthy or unhealthy food locations, or are they about the same? Near school? Near your house?
  3. How far do you have to travel from home to buy food? How many blocks?
  4. What kinds of food can you most easily buy within walking distance of your house?
  5. Why do you think this is so?
  6. Do you think other parts of San Francisco look the same as our neighborhoods, or are they different? Why or why not?
  7. If you could change something about the food locations in our neighborhoods, what would you change?

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Meet the Greens Interview!

Meet the Greens is a website with animated webisodes about two green kids (literally, plus they're environmentalists) who are trying to protect the planet. This week, the Greens (Izz and Dex) interviewed me and Walter, an Urban Sprouts 8th grader from Excelsior Middle School.

Check us out! Here Izz and Dex interview Walter and me, and Here I talk more about how we started Urban Sprouts.

The Greens also have some good tips about recycling, making worm bins, and trying to keep our ecological footprint as small as possible.


Monday, October 15, 2007

Join Us and Cultivate Healthy Schools!

Dear Friends,

What do you think is the most urgent issue we face today? Global warming, youth obesity, national security, unemployment, urban violence . . . a few that come to mind. Did you know that school gardens can make a real difference in all these areas?

It’s well known today one in four children in the US is overweight [1]; this number is one in three at Urban Sprouts’ partner schools [2]. Our children are facing serious health problems unseen in previous generations before the age of 50 [3]. Urban Sprouts has shown that youth engaged in growing their own food eat more fruits and vegetables and teach their peers and families how to eat healthier.

Now, the threat of global warming is real, and school gardens inspire youth to teach their families how to protect the planet by driving less, eating locally-grown food, and keeping recyclables and compostables out of landfills.

In our grandparents’ generation, several million school children contributed to the war effort by feeding our country from school gardens, in name of the US School Garden Army [4]. Perhaps it’s time our children do the same, to protect us from the soaring cost of the oil that produces our industrial food crops and transports them to our door.

For all these reasons, Urban Sprouts helps urban youth to grow fresh, healthy organic food right at their own schools. By nurturing living plants, and by harvesting and eating fresh fruits and vegetables, youth are nourishing their bodies and cultivating a commitment to healthy living and a healthy environment.

This is why I’m inviting you, right now, to CLICK HERE and give a gift of $35, $50 or $100. Your support for Urban Sprouts will make a meaningful difference.

First of all, I want to tell you why school gardens are so meaningful to me. School gardens can completely change the way youth feel at school. Writers like Richard Louv wake us up to the reality that teachers have described for so long: youth suffer psychologically from their disconnection to nature.

Every year we interview teachers at our partner schools to get their feedback. A counselor from Luther Burbank Middle School told us:
This urban setting is dangerous and painful to live and work in. We live with regular shootings and unresolved murders. Behavioral problems, violence, depression and discouragement in youth come from the volatile urban setting, a result of living in an asphalt jungle that is disconnected from nature.
But school gardens can transform the urban environment. Two teachers from Excelsior Middle School told us:
The school garden is safe, an oasis of sanity from the painful experiences of the asphalt jungle. It’s a place where youth and adults can reconnect with the earth and nature even in the city environment. School gardens mitigate the cold city climate and change the physical environment of the urban school surroundings from looking like a prison yard, instead making it attractive, hospitable, inviting and cleaner.

If students don’t experience nature, they become their worst selves. It is very sad to see. In the garden, they smile and enjoy being a kid. We want our youth to leave here feeling confident. They are so vulnerable to other forces. In the garden, students laugh and run around, do work, use their adult strength, enjoy, and eat from the garden.
A counselor from Martin Luther King Middle School declared:
Just walking through the garden lowers a student’s blood pressure. Their whole attitude changes. It’s therapeutic and calming. Students who work in the garden improve their self-esteem, work better with others, become a better person, and show less anger and violence. The garden increases our sense of school community, identity and culture.
A six-year-old child, visiting the Life Lab learning garden in Santa Cruz recently, was quoted as saying: “This has been the best day of my life so far.”

This is why I’m writing to you today to ask for your help. I want to offer you the chance to join the Urban Sprouts community yourself, as a donor and supporter.

CLICK HERE to support Urban Sprouts today, and help us give youth a safe and natural environment that nurtures their bodies, minds and spirits.

Let me tell you a little more about us. Urban Sprouts was founded in 2003 by a group of teachers and volunteers at one middle school who wanted to make a difference. Since then, over 1,000 youth have worked, played and explored in our gardens. We’ve expanded to reach over 550 youth each year at four more public schools: June Jordan School for Equity, Ida B. Wells Continuation High School, Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, and Aptos Middle School.

Urban Sprouts is uniquely designed to support urban middle and high schools serving disadvantaged youth. At Urban Sprouts schools, over 60% of youth are from low-income families and over 95% are youth of color.

These are the schools most in need of school gardens: in San Francisco, only 15% of school gardens serve middle or high school youth and 30% of school gardens belong to economically disadvantaged schools. That’s why our model is so crucial.

Urban Sprouts’ garden-based education does so much more than improve youth health and nutrition. Our four areas of impact are:
  • Health & Nutrition
  • Ecoliteracy & Eco-Actions
  • Academic Performance
  • Youth Development
Urban Sprouts supports urban schools in these four ways:
  • Garden-based Science classes: Students experience hands-on lessons in environmental science and nutrition, garden work projects, and cooking, led by Urban Sprouts’ Garden Educators together with classroom teachers and volunteers.
  • Food System Connections: Urban Sprouts students in after-school and elective classes analyze where their food comes from and why access to many fresh and healthy foods is limited.
  • Garden Grub Family Program: Our new garden-based workshops for families! This year, we invite students’ families to the school garden to cook, garden, and make sure their children have access to healthy food at home, at school, and in the neighborhood.
  • Summer Program: We invite 20 youth each summer for two weeks of intensive gardening, cooking, eating and organizing to make changes in their communities, at San Francisco’s Garden for the Environment. Youth prepare a healthy lunch every day, and learn to eat better and protect the environment at home, too.
The community connections that grow from the garden are the most nourishing and meaningful results of all. We want you to join us!

By giving to Urban Sprouts right now, you will make an investment in the healthy future of our San Francisco youth and our communities, and you get to be a part of the crucial and fast-growing movement to cultivate school gardens!

Please join us by making a donation today! Click HERE to make a secure credit card donation online, or click on the "Donate Now" button at the top right of our blog.

Thank you very much.


Abby R. Jaramillo
Executive Director

P.S. There are more ways to join Urban Sprouts! To learn about volunteer opportunities, click HERE.

1. UC Davis News, 2/6/02, NewsWatch: Obesity, www.news.ucdavis.edu/broadcast/newswatch
2. California Department of Education, DataQuest, http://dq.cde.ca.gov/dataquest/, retrieved 10/19/07
3. Dr. Dennis Styne, Pediatric Endocrinologist, UC Davis Medical Center, presentation, 4/4/07
4. Rose Hayden-Smith, “Soldiers of the Soil: A Historical Review of the United States School Garden Army,” Winter 2006, University of California, Center for Youth Development.