Thursday, September 25, 2008

The West's Farm to School Assembly

Last Friday I attended the Western Region Assembly for Farm to School, hosted by the lovely Michelle Ratcliffe at Ecotrust in Portland, OR. She/Ecotrust serve as the western region lead for the National Farm to School Network.

Sound like another boring meeting? NOPE! This was truly inspiring and exciting—more like a party than a meeting! First of all, many states arrived with GOOD NEWS! (Watch out San Francisco - we want to be cutting edge, but we are SO behind the times!) Representatives from Oregon, Washington and Montana shared new policies that they have passed in support of school gardens and farm-to-school programs. Their states are MAKING IT HAPPEN! Students are learning to love veggies by growing their own food, and school cafeterias are serving products grown and prepared fresh from their local farms, while strengthening the local economy at the same time. We even got to taste some local school food. Yum!

The major theme of the meeting was, with all this energy and forward momentum, how do we "think like a region" and support each other to make our efforts even stronger and more impacting! Any thoughts, all you westerners?

Also, I finally met in person many of my role models, like Rose Hayden-Smith of Victory Gardens fame, and Sandy Curwood, Director of Food Services for the Ventura public schools (who has made huge strides in getting local farms' fresh food into the school cafeterias!). Plus I spent time with many other amazing Farm-to-Schoolers representing California, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. San Francisco was quite conspicuously missing, while Davis, Santa Cruz, and Los Angeles were out in full force!

For a great overview of the research to date in support of school gardens and farm to school programs follow these links. (If anyone tells you it's not working, don't believe em!!)

And, join our new Facebook group to keep in touch! Props to everyone who is creating the Farm to School revolution!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Community is a Verb

Yesterday was quite a day for Urban Sprouts staff. For some the day started before 8AM and ended well after 9PM. We were immersed in the education and community connection around our gardens. We had parent meetings to plan family gardens in order to bring healthy fresh and organic produce to the homes of our students. We were teaching rare and precious lessons about food systems. We were attending Back to School Night as part of the community that surrounds each child to help them succeed in a system that truly seems designed to work against that aim.

In honor of the hard work, dedication and passion that was witnessed in a single day, Urban Sprouts would like to share the video Community is a Verb:

Monday, September 15, 2008

Chicken N Sprouts

Urban Sprouts got "googled" this past summer. Hand On Bay Area coordinated a team of Google Serve folks to come out and lend a hand in the garden. They were fantastic! Each team was creative and diligent in their effort. We would especially like to thank the team for repairing our tool shed. Then, being Google, they posted footage of their volunteer day on You Tube. Check it out! Thanks everyone!!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Slow Food Soapbox

The frenetic labor day weekend included the Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco. The event included four days of panels discussions, meetings, performances and of course, FOOD! Urban Sprouts' highlight was working with a group of youth involved in our work, the work of Next Course and the work of Pie Ranch, to hold a discussion on a topic important to them all, school food.

During Changemakers Day, a series of panel discussions focused on bringing professionals in the field of sustainable food systems together, Slow Food San Francisco featured a clever "soapbox" stage centered in the City Hall Victory Garden from which advocates, performers, youth and others could engage the surrounding attendees. Following the eloquent speaker and author, David Mas Masumoto, five youth staged a conversation around a cafeteria table. The youth sat at the table with empty lunch trays that seemed to symbolize how school food lacks substance to them. From the table, the youth shared with the audience why they often, if not always, choose not to eat the school meals offered through the San Francisco Unified School District. As they shared personal stories about when they enjoyed food and the meaning it has to them, each youth exchanged their empty lunch tray for an item that connected back to their story. One student held up corn, another a fork from her grandmothers kitchen, and another a fresh green apple.

The youth shared touching stories about how the hands on experience of cooking with family and fellow students brought their closer together; how cooking for others brought a sense of joy and fulfillment to them; how food that they have grown holds value and meaning that makes them enjoy fresh food profoundly; and how food can remind them of people they love and miss.

They closed their discussion with commentary on how they appreciate the hard work of the SFUSD to bring them school meals that meet nutrition standards but that they believe we all can work as a community to provide school meals that students want to eat; meals that respect their needs for fresh fruits and vegetables; meals that reflect the values of a healthy food system; meals that they can enjoy, and as Slow Food celebrity Alice Waters also believes in, meals they can take pleasure in.

Urban Sprouts would like to thank Andy, David, Ruby, Isadora, and Anh for their courage and creativity in presenting at Soapbox and Next Course and Pie Ranch for co-organizing this event.
Thank you everyone!!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

School Gardens on the Radio

Check out this feature story about School Gardens in San Francisco public schools on KALW's new local radio news show!
You can listen right on the website.