When you have a 24,000 mile trip coming up in the next few months it is hard not to look to the future. Where will we go, what will we see, how sore are our legs going to be? When I think about why we are riding (besides the experience of it all) I think about the future of food and the people that are effected by it. Married to an elementary school teacher, I am constantly reminded that their are much younger generations who will someday take my place.
The saying “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” has proven itself to be true in many instances of me discussing nutrition with “adults.” How then do you effect positive change toward a more healthy, nutritious future? The answer, bring the nutrition to the kids.
While in Maine this fall I was told it was all but required of me to visit some of the local schools. The small town atmosphere with a strong (but small scale) agricultural influence has found its way into the school system in a big way.
I took a trip to Brooksville Elementary School to talk about their green house and food program. Started as a joint effort between the cook, principal, teachers, custodian, and students, the green house is now a favorite fixture on the school grounds.
Funded by grant programs and donations the green house now produces food all year round. In the summer while the school is on hiatus the food is donated to the local food bank. With the protected climate of the green house fresh vegetables are harvested even through the harsh Maine winter. The trick is knowing what to plant, and when.
The idea started in part with the cook Susanne dodge. “I wanted to bring more whole foods into the kid’s diets. There was simply too much processed food being served in the cafeteria.” 6th grade teacher Rosanna McFarland, with no background in farming or gardening, volunteered to head the maintenance of the vegetables in the green house. “I had no experience growing food before the project began, now I safely say I can grow some great vegetables.”
While I was there tomatoes were in abundance and basil was poking its healthy stalks out from the around bases of the tomato plants. They would not be there for long though as some students were working with the Susanne the very next day to make fresh salsa for the rest of their class-mates.
The adults were excited about the idea. They loved seeing the kids becoming involved in their food chain. But what did the kids think?
I talked with 6th graders Jordan Gray and Emma Weed about their experiences with growing and preparing food at school. “I love it, ” Jordan said while she munched on kale chips made the day before. “The lettuce