Thursday, February 28, 2008

Delicious and Meaningful

I am not easily ruffled by celebrity status. There are strata of celebrity and I am often challenged to distinguish who is who and from what they derive their importance. That said, I actually gawked the other day. I was officially star struck. Not so much by the mere fact of popular status but rather in what this gentleman was choosing to do.

It happened as I was enjoying a slice of heaven, also known as of Shaker Lemon Pie, at Mission Pie. Between mouthfuls (maybe even during), I was engaged in a lively conversation about sustainable food systems of course, when a lean fellow walked through the door. In the midst of conversation, one of my associates discreetly leaned forward and said, “notice the guy that just walked in…but don’t stare.” The man in question was at the counter so I was unable to notice him until he turned to leave. That was when it happened. Mid-sentence I stopped talking and took in the full glory of Mr. Benjamin Bratt.

While I do quite like Mr. Bratt’s acting and naturally, he is beautiful, what truly struck me was that Benjamin Bratt is customer of an establishment that melds the worlds of San Francisco food systems, environmental health, and sustainability with darn good pie. Apparently, he is an ongoing customer of Mission Pie.

Of all the places he could choose to go for a slice of pie in San Francisco, he chooses to support a community driven enterprise that “celebrate farmers, bakers, chefs, and all who work together toward a healthful food system.”
* Wow. This is a man of distinguished taste who in one fell swoop is supporting community food systems, sustainable farming and youth leadership…and who, when all is said and done, likes a simple and honest slice of pie.

This is what really got me. A person famous for their action is acting in support of his local community…he cares. For that brief moment I witnessed a meaningful personal act, not a big screen one, that spoke of an inner beauty that matches, if not exceeds, the outer.

Thank you for supporting the cause Mr. Bratt!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Program Model for Garden-based Ed

A few weeks back I gave a presentation at the Network for a Healthy California Annual Conference in Sacramento. It was a chance to share with other nutrition educators a special strength of Urban Sprouts -- our "Model," something that has theory behind it, has been tested by research, and guides everything that we do. Why is this so special? Let me share a couple of the reasons why we use a program model.
  1. Not guessing what works – existing theory and the body of knowledge from multiple fields inform our work.
  2. A recipe for success – what ingredients we must add in order to get the outcomes we desire.
  3. Evidence of outcomes – Inputs and outcomes are tested by research and evaluation to show impact in the real world.
  4. A Measurement tool – The model guides all our practices, shows how well we’re doing, and tells us where to make improvements at every step.
Now, you may be wondering, what does this really mean, to have a program model?

Urban Sprouts’ program model was created by Dr. Michelle Ratcliffe. In fact, Dr. Ratcliffe's doctoral research project marked our beginning. The program model demonstrates the links between individual behavior changes that school gardens inspire and the larger impacts on families, schools and communities. The model is based on three elements: a young person’s internal strengths, the school and home settings around her, and her own actions, and, finally, how these three interact to create a healthy or unhealthy community. We don't think of the garden as an input and eating healthy as an output. Instead, the garden (an environment), a person's internal strengths, and a person's behaviors all reinforce each other to make people and the community better.
Specifically, Urban Sprouts’ school gardens give youth the knowledge and motivation to eat more fruits and vegetables (behaviors), as well as the ability to grow them (affecting the environment). Our programs also teach confidence and leadership (internal strengths) and help youth to identify problems in their communities – like a lack of fresh produce for sale at neighborhood stores – that are barriers to making healthy choices (environment). This program model shows that the garden goes beyond the individual to also have community-level impacts that create broader social change.

In more detail, our program model lays out all the elements that the school garden environment must have in order to actually impact students' internal strengths and their behaviors. These elements fall into three categories: the physical, curricular and social learning environments. Click on this simplified version of model (below) to see it larger.
Make sense? We have a fun and interesting presentation that lays out the theoretical background and engages the audience with the model in all its detail. If you're interested in learning more, drop us a line and it will help us plan future trainings for the public here in San Francisco.