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:

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It turned out really cool:

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

Smoothie bike!

One of our Farm to School purchases was a bike blender attachment.  A regular bike gets hooked up to a stand and a platform with a Vitamix blender.  Thirty seconds of pedal power, and you have a full pitcher of smoothie.

We ordered the smoothie apparatus in order to promote healthy snacks at school events.  The mountain bike club borrowed the equipment last weekend for the elementary cross-country meet. We used a simple recipe of apple juice, frozen berries, fresh bananas, and ice. Not only did we raise money for our team, but we also had the pleasure of passing out healthy, delicious drinks to kids running their hearts out on a beautiful day in Julian.

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Thanks to my Dad who first saw this type of bike at a golf tournament and led me to research it.  Find out more at http://www.rockthebike.com

From the “hill” to the “campus”

For many years, the school lunch program has been serviced by a food service company headquartered out of the Midwest.  Weekly, frozen entrées were trucked in from somewhere in southern California, stored and then “heated and served.”  It worked for many reasons: the price, the pre-packaged portions, and the availability of this company to deliver to our remote mountain town.  The quality of the food?  Well, it was frozen, fairly processed and far from local.  As part of our USDA Farm to School grant, Susi and I began to research other possibilities.

And a possibility began to emerge—so big and so wonderful—it was hard to believe it might actually happen.  But it did, thanks to many meetings, the support of our administration and the work of our nutrition program director.  Our school lunch program at our public elementary, junior high and high school, is now (as of two weeks ago) catered exclusively by a local Farm to Table restaurant, Jeremy’s on the Hill.  Allow me to list the many levels of wonderfulness:

-Jeremy’s on the Hill is run by chef Jeremy Manly who attended Julian schools, went away to culinary school and came back home to establish a restaurant with his family.

-Jeremy’s on the Hill is a Farm to Table restaurant, sourcing as much local food as possible.

-Jeremy’s has a reputation for being one of the best places to eat in our town, and now the kids at our school get the benefit of their good food every day.

-Through this new contract, we were able to invest our school lunch program money into our own town, and it has created jobs.

-No longer frozen, all meals are cooked each morning and driven a few miles down the road.

-I was at the high school when the new program rolled out.  The cafeteria smelled wonderful, I heard a kid exclaim about the “real food,” and many of the staff even bought lunch—perhaps for the first time.  A mom wrote to me saying how thrilled she is that her son is taking advantage of the local, fresh salad bar.  I’ve heard reports of kids trying new things—like the heirloom tomatoes last week–and being won over.  One kid said the “Baja Bowl” with brown rice, cabbage, tomatoes, olives and fish didn’t look appetizing, but it was the best things he’s eaten in a long time.  Sure, there a kinks to iron out as with any overhaul of any major program, but things are off to a great start thanks to the vision of our administration, the flexibility and commitment of our nutrition staff and Jeremy’s dedication to making sure that the school meal that many kids have—and many kids depend on—is the kind that will prepare their minds and bodies for learning.  So celebrate with me:

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What I did on my summer vacation

I’m back, with stories to tell.

In fact, one of my first stories is one I’ve been keeping close since May, and now I can finally let it out to all of you good readers.  IT IS SO EXCITING I WILL HAVE TO REFRAIN FROM WRITING THE ENTIRE POST IN ALL CAPS, but I will try.

But first….what I did on my summer vacation, garden-wise.

In July the school garden committee of Master Gardeners was treated to a tour of the garden at Paul Ecke Elementary in Encinitas, with Mr. Hank as tour guide.

“School as garden”—an idea that the whole campus is a garden with different sites where all subjects can be taught.  IMG_0087

Their outdoor “cooking lab” has an underground drain which waters the baby citrus tree to the left.

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Water plants, not friends—apparently a school garden universal.

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A neat application of the painted rock concept.

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I like seeing other garden educator’s tricks of the trade.  Here Mr. Hank has made a device in which he can arrange the tools needed that day and kids can quickly choose from that limited supply instead of sorting through the shed.

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A rain chain adds a grace note to this rainwater cistern.

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Pallets set on their sides create the stage for a lesson on vertical gardens.

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In the boxes below, veggies are planted by color to emphasize the principle above.

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School as garden—here citrus plants, herbs and ornamentals enhance another building’s facade across campus.

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Even little flower gardens enliven a school campus as they create habitat.

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The same day I visited the ambitious 1-acre farm project on the campus of Ocean Knoll in Encinitas, a vision steered by two women/parents who lead the non-profit organization Healthy Day Partners.  They are building raised beds, compost bins, and tool sheds with a view to supplying the salad bars in the district’s nine elementary schools.  As a food justice project, fruit trees are being planted along the street side of the property, purposely planted to hang over the fence so that fruit is available to any neighbor passing by.

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As part of their school’s international focus, the upper elementary students built this greenhouse with “eco-bricks”—discarded plastic bottles filled with inorganic trash.  Schools in Latin America have been built with this simple technology, and the Encinitas kids worked through the organization Hug it Forward to help fundraise for one such project in Guatemela, later skyping with the Central American students about their shared experiences.

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A beautiful multi-purpose stage for activities from yoga to outdoor meals stretches along one side of the garden.  Stumps arranged around the platform create a perfect performance area as well.

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Good reminder that rural, suburban, urban—we all got our critters to exclude.

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This is a team, and a district, with a lot of vision, and I look forward to following–and celebrating–their progress!

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95% of students report “yum” on kale

Our garden ambassadors periodically cook/prepare garden produce and host a “taste test” during the 10:15 recess at this adorable cart:

Thank you Kymm for repurposing this old AV cart we found in the storage barn!

Today we tackled kale—considered by many to be the most nutritious vegetable to eat.  It also seems to grow effortlessly and abundantly—here’s some plants grown from seed by our PLUS team (junior high leadership).

Kale framed by yellow snapdragons

Kale can also be perceived as hard to eat.  To introduce it to our kids in a positive way, the ambassadors met before school to blend up smoothies with kale, apple juice, bananas, celery and fresh lemon juice.  Kids lined up for a taste, and the girls recorded a “yum” or “yuck” rating.

I love this idea because it introduces kids to new foods and flavors, all in the fun of a recess “taste test.”  One girl lingered for a few minutes before getting up the nerve to down her ounce of green smoothie—once she did, she asked for the recipe so her grandmother could make her more.  Some kids got back in line and begged for seconds.  Another little girl said she wished we had it every snack recess.  Teachers came out to taste test too!

Mrs. Younce gives kale smoothie an enthusiastic “thumbs up”!