Farm to Market to School to Table
Written by Rosa Ramirez-Lopez, FoodPrints Program Assistant/Shopper and FoodPrints Assistant Teacher at Watkins Elementary
Every weekend I shop at a FRESHFARM farmers market to pick up loads of fresh produce. Every Monday I head to Whole Foods to shop for pantry items and any supplemental ingredients our teachers will need. I get to spend the rest of the week using all of this food, along with produce harvested right in the Watkins Elementary School Garden, to prepare nutritious and tasty meals with gleeful students in the FoodPrints kitchen classroom at Watkins Elementary. Sounds like the perfect job, right? It is.
I love my job. Where else would I be able to hold a leopard slug one day and ‘cure’ a ‘kale allergy’ the next?
What I love most about my job is the fact that I get to see many different aspects of FRESHFARM Markets in action. My job is like a web, connecting our farmers to our schools and the communities that surround them.
Farm to (Classroom) Table in Action
When I shop at either the Downtown Silver Spring or Dupont Circle FRESHFARM Market, I often get curious looks from people. With my clipboard in hand, flipping back and forth between lists from each of the six DC public elementary schools that have FoodPrints programs, my FRESHFARM Markets name tag, and my shopping cart loaded (and I mean loaded) with beautiful local produce, I stick out a bit. Ask to get six separate subtotals when you are checking out at a farm stand a few times, and the staff will remember you. I get a lot of questions and I am happy to answer them all. I love to see the furrowed brow of curiosity turn into a smile when I tell them all about FoodPrints and that the fruits and vegetables I have purchased are going to be used in the classroom to teach kids about the importance of eating fresh, local, seasonal produce. The question I get asked most often by the farmers is no longer, “Who are you?” or, ‘What is FoodPrints?” but, ‘What are the kids cooking this week?’
The Whole Foods Pantry
Every Monday morning, you will find me at the Tenleytown Whole Foods. Again, with my clipboard in hand, picking up any items that were not available at the Farmers Market or grown in the school gardens. Each of the six FoodPrints schools has a Whole Foods Pantry with items generously donated by Whole Foods for the 2015-16 school year.
The FoodPrints Kitchen Classroom
This is where the magic happens. Every week, our lead teacher at Watkins, Ms. Kealy, our master gardener, Mrs. Percival and I teach FoodPrints classes. We teach lessons that build on DCPS and Common Core standards, linking math, science, social studies and art to the garden and the kitchen. Students stay with us for at least two-hours to allow time to dive deeply into the subject matter and to prepare something delicious to eat.
We generally start in the FoodPrints classroom where we introduce the focus for the day. Then, we go down to the garden where students plant, harvest, perform garden maintenance, and have opportunities for hands-on discovery learning. The students love to go to the garden! Where else could you pretend to be a squirrel and figure out how to break open an acorn, or use the scientific method to guess what your classroom’s mystery plant is, or harvest a sweet potato bigger than your head?
Finally, we go back up to the classroom and start prepping our ingredients. Once the students have cleaned up, they are broken up into small groups. While I finish cooking all the ingredients the students have prepped, Ms. Kealy, Mrs. Percival and our parent volunteers lead the different stations around the classroom. We have had lessons on Pollination, Decomposition and Plant Parts, just to name a few. By the time the group reaches the last station, the delicious aromas have spread to every corner of the classroom, and we are all looking forward to eating.
Students, who at the beginning of class say they ‘hate kale’, are licking their plates clean! When I jokingly asked the little girl who claimed to be ‘allergic to kale’ if she was okay, her response to me was, ‘Guess what? I’m cured!’ All in a day’s work!