Growing tomorrow’s future today: Planting the seeds of food education

Washington-DC

WASHINGTON (WDVM) — Elementary schoolers at 15 public schools in the District of Columbia are getting down in the ground learning how to grow and cook fresh food. These hands-on lessons go far beyond the garden.

The program is called Food Prints and is made possible because of a partnership DCPS has with a community-based organization, Fresh Farm. Fresh Farm works to support a sustainable food system in the mid-Atlantic region.

Food Prints is just one aspect of Fresh Farm’s work in the region. The educational program works to connect what students learn in the classroom with what they learn in the garden.

Tailor Coble, the Lead Food Prints Teacher at John Burroughs Elementary School and Food Access Coordinator explained that she discusses lesson plans with teachers to find out what the students are currently learning in class. She then takes those lessons and finds ways to incorporate it into the garden.

When the children were learning about plastic and its impact on the environment, Coble took the students around the garden and cleaned up plastic and trash that had been littered. She and the kids then talked about how that made them feel, and what the impact was on the plants.

“It’s not as rigorous as a classroom setting is, so it’s nice for kids to come out to the garden, get that energy out, get their hands in the dirt and feel super accomplished in a super different way,” Coble said.

Food Prints provides a social aspect to learning as well. John Burroughs Principal Levar Jenkins calls it a community class.

He said, “I think it enhances opportunities for our students in exposure, and that’s key in their development.”

Coble added, “That connection to where your food comes from is so important, especially in inner-city neighborhoods where there are food deserts and there are huge disparities in access to food.”

As the garden grows, students are able to pick the food, cook and eat together. Even if they are not sure they will like a particular vegetable, they try it and expand their pallets.

Coble said, “They pull that radish out, and even though they weren’t sure what it was going to be like, because they pulled it out, they still wanted to try it. I think it’s really cool that Food Prints can do that.”

While the class gives students a confidence, Coble explains that it can give parents confidence as well.

She said, “With parents, if the kid liked that radish, they can go home and tell them they like radishes, and the parent now doesn’t have to stress over buying a bunch of radishes and wonder if their kid will like that.”

Fresh Farm hopes to eventually have a Food Prints class in every elementary school in the District.

In addition to Food Prints, Fresh Farm also runs farmer’s markets, supports food access in vulnerable communities and supports regional farmers. To learn more, click here.

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