Saturday, June 30, 2012

Week Two at FoodWhat!?

Tuesday BLASTS!

This week we had our first BLAST of the summer! What is a BLAST? Every Wednesday half of our crew go to a different school to lend a hand at supporting their school garden in the vacancy of summer.  This summer we will go to Costanoa High School, Mesa Verde Gardens, B-40 Middle School, Soquel High School, and Gateway Elementary School. This week we rolled up to Davenport to Pacific Elementary School to work with Stephanie on several projects she needed help with.

 Stephanie runs a rad program at her school called FoodLab which she explained to us--a rotation of her elementary school students prepare a healthy delicious lunch each day for the whole school using produce grown at the school and in their on-campus kitchen!  Truly a model we would want to see for all students in every school across the nation. All of the talk about school lunches caused us to slightly painfully reminisce about our own school lunches from our younger years, drawing attention to the benefits of the healthier alternatives Stephanie provides through her program. A few of our youth crew mentioned healthy food or snack programs in their school like at Natural Bridges High School and at Costanoa High.  Stephanie's commitment to eating healthy and delicious was apparent as she passed out baskets of homemade muffins and strawberries for the crew to snack on throughout the work day.

After the discussion, the crew split up into teams to accomplish various tasks around the schoolyard. One team of Derek and Cindy, was in charge of cleaning up the kindergarden playground by trimming back all the hedges and pulling out the kikuyu grass around the area (not an easy task!).

At the same time, Gaelen and Kayla took on the tedious task of weeding the planter boxes around the blacktop at the front of the school of even more kikuyu grass and other invasive weeds.  When they were done there was a stark difference and the front entry to the school looked much better.


 In the school’s community garden, the FoodWhat crew took care of weeding the planter boxes and trimming back giant nasturtium plants from the fences. It took a lot of time and work in the sun, but made a big difference in the garden’s appearance and availability of space by the time the crew was through!  Selena noted that at times she just wanted to stop because the work was hard and she was hot and tired, but she pushed through and finished strong.  That's one part of professionalism that we work hard on with the crew at FoodWhat and she got it!

With Doron, four more members of the crew worked on the exploratory garden outside of the classrooms. They weeded intensively and Connor was a rock star pulling out endless English Ivy that was choking out the other plants and taking over the area.  Lots more space was created for the students to do gardening projects outside!

Being at an elementary school brought out the kid in all of us, calling for an epic game of full-court FoodWhat basketball to end the day!

Thurdays with the Homeless Garden Project!

Every Thursday we head out to the Homeless Garden Project farm here in Santa Cruz to do community service to support their farm. One staff member, Don, explained that the combined effort of FoodWhat and the Homeless Garden Project staff usually accomplishes a week’s worth of work in just a single day. All of this hard work serves as a big boost to the project’s mission of creating a positive community and hiring currently and recently homeless individuals for a two-year job training program through organic gardening.

Don led a group in working with the compost piles and explained how different kinds of soil types require different care to create the best soil possible. First they had to flip four piles to aerate the compost and then watered them down to keep them moist. The crew then shaped the piles into one long pile shaped as a trapezoid. This shape keeps the piles evenly moist and prevents water from simply trickling off the top.

Another crew, led by Danny, weeded the beds and pathways in between. All of this weeding definitely saved the Homeless Garden Project staff a lot of time as the FoodWhat crew filled several wheelbarrows full of the unwanted weeds.

The third group of the day, working with Abby, Doron, and Dawn, harvested and bundled lavender for the HGP to sell in products in their winter store. We learned to trust the bees when harvesting lavender: where the bees are buzzing, the flowers are bloomed, most fragrant, and ready to be picked!

Then it was time for lunch! Nellie (FoodWhat Intern) and the Homeless Garden Project staff prepared a delicious feast of lentil and garbanzo curry, salad with strawberries and peaches, black bean and corn salad, rice noodles with mustard greens and squash, lentil soup, and delicious banana nut bread for dessert! Needless to say, today’s hard workers were well-fed by the end of their break.


After lunch, we learned about bike safety with Mira and Tawn of People Power (local bike-advocacy organization). FoodWhat does this training each summer to refresh our youth crew on basic rules of the road and safe biking techniques.  We practiced proper hand signals, played “red light, green light,” “stop on a dime,” “slow bike race” and other games to inform us how to properly look for cars and signal so we can safely share the road.  During the next two Thursdays we will be doing some bike deliveries for local farms by bike so this training really got us up to speed!


We ended the day with a cipher--a small group discussion with a relevant topic to our lives.  This week's was "the most memorable moment of your life so far." The cipher is a great community builder for our crew and this one led to an important discussion about how to maintain healthy relationships. With that food for thought, the FoodWhat crew left the farm to rest for the next day’s work.

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