Not your parents’ school lunch

By FoodCorps Service Member Emily Horowitz for the Julian News

Everything you think you know about school lunch is wrong. There is no grumpy old lunch lady plopping slop onto styrofoam trays of hungry students, no half-frozen cardboard pizzas or lumpy mystery meat specials. School lunch has had a bad rap for over 50 years — rightfully so in some cases — but with new USDA nutrition standards and policy shifts, school lunch has been changing for the better.

At Julian Elementary School and Julian Junior High School, we are incredibly lucky to have school lunch made by chefs Donald and Shirley Hooper at the local restaurant Jeremy’s on the Hill. As parents to a first grader and a pre-schooler, creating delicious, locally sourced kid-friendly meals is a personal matter for the Hoopers. Donald has transformed Jeremy’s On the Campus lunch program by sourcing the most local ingredients he can find with the help of the generous suppliers at Sysco and local growers like Sage Mountain Farms. From San Diego free-range chicken to tomatoes delivered within four hours of harvesting, the ingredients in our school lunch are far from the frozen mysteries we used to serve.

If San Diego isn’t local enough for you, Donald is also partnering with Brigida and Josh Rasmussen of Down the Road Farm, and Stacy Peyakov of Wynola Flats Produce. Down the Road Farm is a 22.5 acre farm and orchard that uses organic practices and, although it is still relatively small, provides salad greens and herbs for both Jeremy’s on the Hill restaurant and the school lunch program. The Hoopers supplement dishes with these local greens and create sauces from “ugly” produce donated by Wynola Flats to form the delicious and healthy meals served at school everyday.

The National School Lunch Program has strict standards dictating the amount of sodium, saturated fat, sugar, number of calories, and servings of fruit and vegetables contained in each student’s meal. These requirements mean that children who buy school lunch may be more likely to meet their daily nutrition requirements than those who bring lunch from home. It can be difficult to make sure kids are eating nutritious and balanced meals, so why not ditch the lunchable or leftover pizza for some affordable restaurant-quality lunch that you know is healthy?

National school lunch programs allow children whose families may not have access to healthy food to receive the majority of their daily nutrition needs at a reduced price or even for free. In rural Julian, the need for affordable fresh food is especially high. Our school lunch program, Jeremy’s on the Campus, is famous throughout San Diego county as one of the most unique and progressive systems of its kind. The Farm to School movement, which strives to connect kids to healthy food in schools, is transforming lunch programs all over the nation, and we are proud to be a part of it. So next time you stress about what to pack in your child’s lunchbox, put down the hot cheetos, and let your child enjoy a beautiful salad bar and freshly cooked meal!

A first grade student enjoys a chicken sandwich made with meat from Mary’s Chicken in San Diego.

 Donald and Shirley Hooper receive the Julian Backcountry Collaborative April Partner of the Month Award.

Thank you San Diego Master Gardeners!

Last semester Julian Elementary was thrilled to receive a $500 grant to build a pioneer history raised bed in conjunction with the 5th grade teacher, Mrs. McFedries, as part of her social studies curriculum.  We used the money to buy heirloom seeds, wood, soil and paints.  Our garden teachers Kat and Emily did an awesome job overseeing all of the steps with Mrs. McFedries.

We chose to take out a raised bed that we inherited ten years ago and was falling apart.

Students cut and painted the new boards.  We decided to make this bed not only wider, but also twice as deep.

Tom, the head of our school maintenance staff, generously helped the students build the bed.

Meanwhile, students propagated their seeds from “Seed Savers Exchange” on every available flat space in the classroom and later in the garden.  Emily had researched and purchased historic varieties of beans, corn, squash, okra, cucumber and herbs.

It took a lot of soil to fill this beauty!  Small transplants were then placed in the new bed and covered in agrobon to protect the baby plants.

Finished product!  (We only need to add some length to the current irrigation.) The fifth graders “paid it forward” by planting herbs and vegetables for next year’s class, but since the junior high is adjacent to the elementary, they can also come back early next school year to enjoy the harvest too!  The smaller letters on the bed read “Thank you SD Master Gardeners!”

 

Snowy landscapes and comforting spaces

Hello friends!

Even though it has been snowy and freezing cold in our garden with not much happening…..img_3739 img_3740

….I’d like to share these warming thoughts from our school garden partners/sponsors. The Sage Garden Project works with gardens all across the county and state. The stated purpose of my blog is to make a case for school gardens from every conceivable angle and here’s yet another:

Your School’s Garden As A Healing Place
Thoughts, Experiences, and Ideas from the Sage Garden Project Staff

It would be disingenuous to publish a newsletter full of recipes and growing tips without speaking to the anguish and upset that many of our students are experiencing currently. The schools we support range from those filled with families serving in the military to those filled with immigrants from Mexico and others with large populations specifically from the Middle East. More than ever, we hope that the Sage Garden Project provides a common ground – where students do not compete, but rather work together, learn together, and ultimately, break bread together. More than ever, it is our hope that school gardens can be a respite, a place of solace, of peace, rest, and beauty. We have often found our sensitive students wishing to sit in a quiet spot in the garden in order to escape the chaos of the recess playground. Perhaps now would be the perfect time to create a calm corner of your garden that is a special spot, welcome to all quiet comers. Some schools have special “I could use a friend” benches, some have “time-out” spots. Whatever you choose to anoint your spot, consider stocking it with books, art supplies, and suggestions of garden projects that interested students could take up, and get their minds off their problems in the process. Let’s work toward making our gardens places to nurture our children’s whole selves, in addition to feeding their bellies.

“California Thursdays” lunch launch

On March 17th, our district participated in a statewide launch of California Thursdays, a program promoted by the Center for Ecoliteracy.  The idea is simple: districts sign on to serve a lunch every Thursday sourced only with California food.

To get ready for the big celebration, I worked with after school students for two months to create educational signage and decorations.

IMG_8742 (2) IMG_8743 (3)

Strawberries were planned for the menu, so I made them the “harvest of the month” and created strawberry lessons.  We examined strawberry plants, talked about “runners” or stolons, searched for plants in the garden with “strawberry facts,” whipped up strawberry smoothies and made little posters that later decorated the lunch area wall.

IMG_0964-1 IMG_8746 (2) IMG_8744 (1) IMG_8891 (1)

One day before the event, I taught two flower arranging classes after school to make the lunch table centerpieces.  I found the plastic pots at a dollar store, and we made the entire arrangements with only plants and flowers found in the school garden.  They turned out beautifully!

Picking flowers…..

IMG_8882

…and arranging them!

IMG_8885 IMG_8888

On the morning of our launch, the Garden Ambassadors came to school early to help me hang signs and posters.

IMG_8893 IMG_8897 IMG_8894 IMG_8898

At 11:00 our special guests arrived—the farmers and ranchers who provided the food for lunch, representatives from our caterer Jeremy’s on the Campus, Jan Stone from the Center for Ecoliteracy and partners from North County San Diego Health and Human Services.  Our Garden Ambassadors greeted each guest, sat with him/her during the assembly and lunch, and provided garden tours.

IMG_8920

Our lunch consisted of sliders made with bison meat from a local ranch, salad from Farmer Phil at Sage Mountain Farm, and bread from California Mountain Bakery.  At the assembly right before lunch, junior high students showed a slideshow they created about California agriculture.  Ken Childs from Star B Ranch, the local bison ranch, spoke to the kids about raising bison and set up a table of bison-related items to see and touch.  Chef Jeremy, Farmer Phil, Jan Stone and Health and Human Services Deputy Director Jennifer Bransford-Koons also spoke about good, local food and healthy lunch!

IMG_8904 (1) IMG_8900 IMG_8906

Then we all ate lunch!  A wonderful day, and an awesome concept—our district is proud to be a part of the state’s California Thursday effort!  (And thank you to Susi Jones for making this whole event happen—her vision always inspires!)

IMG_8915

Drink a rainbow

An effective phrase for teaching nutrition to children is “eat a rainbow!”  The simple idea is that eating fruits and veggies of all different colors builds a healthy diet.  We made this a theme on Food Day 2015, and I want to keep building upon it.

Sage Garden has provided us with their notebook of recipes which includes a different color smoothie for each grade.  I pulled all of the different colors and am doing “Drink a rainbow!” workshops for my after school students.

I began by setting up the Sage Garden cooking cart with all of the equipment and ingredients laid out and the recipe written on the whiteboard.

IMG_8402

Then I gave each pair of students a stack of laminated fruit and vegetable cards produced by the California Department of Education.  The students sorted the fruits and veggies into two piles:  orange/yellow and other.  We talked about all the orange and yellow examples we found.

IMG_8403

Students came up one by one for the various jobs:  juicing the oranges, peeling the bananas, pressing the limes, adding the strawberries, measuring out the yogurt.

IMG_8406 IMG_8416

IMG_8412

The next week we did purple smoothies, and this week we will blend up red ones.  As you can imagine, it’s a very popular class!

IMG_8449

 

In which service volunteers are celebrities…

It was a good morning in November when I answered the Pathways phone and an AmeriCorps team member was on the line, asking if we would like a group of volunteers for a day of service at school.

Um, YES!

On December 18th, we welcomed eight young people from all around the county on a 10-month term of community service across the western states.  They had been in Julian for six weeks, staying at Camp Stevens and working on building and clearing trails, planting natives on Volcan and helping out around town, such as assisting locals in hanging all of the holiday decorations on our historic Main Street.  On our day, they worked with Pathways, helping to wrap presents for our toy drive, moving a sandbox for the special ed. department, planting bulbs, painting our table, and installing a hoop system over our raised beds.

I also asked them if they would be willing to do a 15-minute presentation to the 4th and 5th grade classes.  They were happy to do this and visited each class to discuss the concept of AmeriCorps, what projects they had already contributed to, where they were headed next, and what they had learned about committing a year of their young lives to service in various communities.  I also asked the team to share some of their reflections on living in Julian with our students, as it’s always great to get an outsider’s perspective on what is just “daily life” for you.  They talked about the natural beauty of Julian, the close-knit community who had welcomed them wholeheartedly and of course, the apple pie.

After taking a few last questions, I hustled them out the door so the students could get ready for lunch.  As I did, some fifth graders followed us with pen and paper and started asking the AmeriCorps members to sign their names.  Suddenly I realized the kids were asking for their autographs!  The AmeriCorps members realized this too as they signed paper after paper, laughing that this was definitely a “first” for them.

Oh to live in a world where the people who volunteer and serve in communities are the celebrities!  And thank you to the amazing Mrs. McFedries who has taught her class to respect and be grateful for people who serve others.  Bless you AmeriCorps team as you continue to make the world a better place!

IMG_8306 (1)

 

Last garden tour of 2015

Before we head into the new year, here’s a glimpse of the fun we had and the work we did in the school garden in November and December—aka my periodic “Garden Tour.”

Leaf rubbings in garden class made sweet placemats for “Take your parent to lunch” in the garden.

IMG_7626

Following up on the “How is it grown?” video the students watched on Food Day, we made a simple cranberry relish with orange juice and local honey.

IMG_8074

IMG_1743

While the cranberries cooked, we worked on updating our garden journals—-decorating the covers with images from garden catalogues and inserting recipes and other lesson materials from the last couple months.

IMG_8076 IMG_8079

Miss Sally Snipes gave us a bushel of daffodils to add to the garden.  To make this a fun activity, I called the class “Bulbs and Bubbles.”  After planting a few bulbs, students got to blow bubbles…then back to the bulbs….and then bubbles…

IMG_8084 IMG_8091 IMG_8094

I took the portable speaker out to the garden to play Christmas music as students went wild decorating the garden.  Where could they hang ornaments?  Anywhere they could reach.

IMG_8222 IMG_8232

For out last garden class in December, the younger grades made tangerine pomanders—a highly sensory, fine motor activity.

IMG_8271

IMG_8281

Older students do an activity that is now a bit of tradition around the holidays: wreath making with freshly cut cedar and rosemary sprigs.

IMG_8266 (1) IMG_8267 IMG_8262

Freezing weather sent us inside for a few garden classes.  Here students measured out their own healthy trail mix and munched on it while we played garden bingo.

IMG_8312

Anticipating a lot of cold, wet weather to come, I am now thinking through new inside garden projects and activities for the rest of the winter.

More to come in the new year:  our visit from Americorps and garden fashion!  Thanks for following along in 2015!  And thanks for sharing my love and enthusiasm for “all the good things that happen in school gardens.”  Happy New Year!

Stuffed and Happy: Food Day 2015

Before the really big Food Day is upon us, I’d like to share some glimpses of Food Day 2015 at Julian Elementary and Julian Junior High.  It was a minimum day, and we had 15 workshops between the two campuses.  Students went to 5-6 of them for thirty minutes each.

In the weeks before the event, I began making this “eat a rainbow” collage with after school students, using photos from seed catalogues:

IMG_7576

It turned out really cool:

IMG_7957

It was too wet and windy to hang it in front of the school as planned (along with two huge banners that read “Eat a Rainbow Every Day!”) so it became a nice backdrop for a storybook and craft session on the importance of eating foods of all different colors for a healthy diet.

IMG_7817

The UC Farm Smart joined us for the third year running, and as usual, they delivered a visual, hands-on, super engaging lesson.  This year’s topic: carrots.

IMG_7827

Students used orange dots to conduct a poll after a taste test: fresh carrots, canned carrots or no carrots at all.

IMG_7821

Another wildly popular instructor, Chef Greg from Healthy Adventures Foundation taught kids how to make vegetarian sushi.

IMG_7861

A superteam of teachers, present and former (Lark, Nancy, Kathy, Shirley) presented lessons on “eating a rainbow.”  A mini-lesson on the health benefits of each color was followed by fruit and veggie bingo and fruit kabobs—kids that ate all the colors left with a little rainbow sticker on their shirts.

IMG_7834

IMG_8111 (1)

Food Day would not be Food Day without Teak and Harvey representing for the Julian Apple Growers with apple pressing for juice and apple slice taste tests.

IMG_7837 IMG_7842

The amazing folks from Camp Stevens led a composting workshop, demonstrating their teaching flexibility by switching from the garden to the cafeteria when it started to pour, hauling in mounds of unsifted compost and wheelbarrows.

IMG_7845

Mrs. Croman, our music teacher, leading “food songs.”

IMG_7823

Not pictured: Ann from the Resource Conservation District teaching a lesson about monarch butterflies and the importance of protecting pollinators.

Meanwhile down at the junior high:

From the mind of our ag specialist, Mr. Martineau:  Students walk through eight stations, tracing all of the parts of a pizza to their origins and making little pizzas as they go.  Each station had information, questions and a short video about the bread, sausage, tomato sauce, etc.

IMG_7914 IMG_7908

Presenting the Duffy Cooking Show!  How cool is it that kids were making homemade granola bars with their principal and superintendent?

IMG_7923 IMG_7927

Mrs. Hill and Mrs. Tellez pulled off an amazing workshop on cheese: a history of cheese, cheesemaking, cheese tasting/rating and looking at yogurt under the microscope.

IMG_7905 IMG_7898 IMG_7901

Every student did an art project with Sun Dog Studios.  See last post.

IMG_3049

Students had a chance to talk to Joel and Chef Jeremy, who plan and cook their school lunch.  Joel and Jeremy talked to the kids about the mechanics and nutrition involved in planning a NSLP-approved lunch, and students provided them with feedback about the menu.

IMG_7920

Not pictured:  Students watched 5 short videos from the very cool video series How does it grow?

All that, and we fit in an apple crunch on both campuses!  Later that day, afterschool students toured Mom’s Pies and each made an apple dumpling….

Thanks to all who contributed to this truly awesome day of learning!  See you next year.

Now for a nap.

 

 

 

 

“Soda is the monster we need to mash!”

As part of our Food Day program, Sun Dog Art Studios led an anti-soda art project at the junior high.  Each student made a “monster” out of a soda can in thirty minutes using construction paper, puffy paint, scissors, straws and pipe cleaners.  Teal and Tomy, the founders and art teachers of Sun Dog, were a delight to work with, and I highly recommend them to any school or organization in San Diego County.

IMG_7889

IMG_3049

IMG_7932 IMG_7944 IMG_7943 IMG_7948

Sun Dog made these samples with information on soda consumption which they left with us to incorporate into our displays.

IMG_7884

Librarian Colleen allowed us to hang half of the collection behind the checkout counter at the Julian Library the next day.  The collection will stay up through the end of November.

IMG_7939 IMG_7934

IMG_7933

I hung the other half at the Wolf Den, the junior high multipurpose room.

IMG_7950 IMG_7952

Stay tuned for more wonderful reports from Food Day 2015…..

 

The Great Julian Apple Crunch

Video

Today Julian Elementary and Junior High celebrated National Food Day with 15 workshops on nutrition, cooking, backyard gardening and agriculture.  It was amazing—look for upcoming posts with photos and stories.

For now, let me share a video with you.  Every year people across the country celebrate good, fresh food with an Apple Crunch event.  We did one this year, thanks to Ken and Linda Limon who visited a neighboring orchard whose owners allowed them to harvest for free, picked 400 apples, hand sorted them, packed them in flats of 50 and delivered them to cold storage in the school kitchen.  We washed and bagged them by class size.  Students wore their red No Excuses shirts to school, Garden Ambassadors held up big leaves, and our principal got on the roof to film the event.  The weather was sketchy today but it held just long enough…..five minutes later, downpour!  Simply amazing.

Thank you Linda and Ken—you made this happen!