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.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Week One of FoodWhat?! Summer 2012

FoodWhat kicks off the first week of our Summer Job Training Program! The heat of the summer sun marks a significant milestone for twenty awesome and deserving youth as they advance from being Spring Interns to becoming fully hired FoodWhat Crew. Congratulations! With the largest hired crew in FoodWhat history including 20 on the crew, 3 Junior Staff and 2 College Interns, a game of citrus toss was in order to help everyone learn each others' names and get acquainted with one another.

After the energetic memory game, the crew took a few moments to relax as Abby passed around Sunflower seeds. Each crew member thought about a personal goal to accomplish over the summer and planted a seed to solidify and ground each individual goal. As the summer progresses, the flourishing seeds will represent individual growth and progress.

Once the seeds were planted, the crew brainstormed community goals to achieve throughout the summer. Doron led a discussion about the positive impact accomplishing goals can have on the crew as a whole, as well as each individual's feelings of success.  This was then contrasted with the negative consequences that often follow not meeting the goals of each member of the team.

After a lot of contemplation, it was time to loosen up and wake up our bodies with a game of blob tag. The goal of this game was to stay connected to your blob while absorbing stragglers to expand!  Great game to start working as a team right off the bat.

Then the crew sat down one more time to discuss a new element of FoodWhat as it becomes a job rather than an internship: time sheets. Doron explained the importance of properly filling out time sheets at any job. Furthermore, he discussed punctuality as a crucial element of demonstrating professionalism.

We ended the discussion with a game of "I have Common Ground" to get to know each other better. This game gave the crew a chance to teach each other about family backgrounds, favorite colors, preferred foods, and hobbies of all kinds. More importantly, it gave the crew members a chance to recognize others they shared interests with.

With the serious business aside and new friendships already forming, it was time to get our hands dirty! The crew broke off into groups to accomplish a variety of tasks. Doron's group trimmed back blackberry bushes and cleared brush to make space for new flower beds.
 The group successfully cleared the area in its entirety! Before the end of the day, Sunflowers and Snapdragons were planted to flourish in a space where weeds and brush had previously dominated.

Working with Abby, other members of the crew prepared beds by flipping the soil, adding compost, and raking the bed flat.
  After thoroughly preparing the beds, the group planted kohlrabi and beans, weeded the beds, and harvested wheat.

Working in the flower beds with Nellie (one of the summer interns) and Kayla (one of our Junior staff), the crew forked three flower beds, removed any bulbs they found to be planted later on, added compost, and raked the beds out evenly.   

 After a long day of work, lessons on professionalism, and positive thinking for the rest of the summer, the crew ended the day with laughter and relaxation as they stretched and practiced strength exercises with Fa Jun, our guest instructor. These practices left the crew with knowledge about mental and physical health as well as some secrets of the moves of Bruce Lee to enjoy for the rest of the day.