Tag Archives: school nutrition

Kids can Change the World

When kids are busy in the garden and in the kitchen, they experience the here and now in the living present. Kids are more aware of insects and birds, the sun and wind, aromas and flavors, when they are tending their own organic fruit and veggie garden. Kids find adventures and make discoveries everyday rooting about in the garden soil, learning that the soil is alive with earthworms and microorganisms. When they harvest their produce they want to eat what they grew and the kitchen becomes a magical place. Kids find that food cooked from scratch, especially from their organic veggie garden, is easily accessed, more flavorful, less expensive, and makes them feel better after eating. Kids often eat the sweet veggies at their most delicious and nutritious state while standing in the garden. When friends and family enjoy the food they have grown and prepared themselves, kids feel a sense of responsibility and pride of accomplishment.

School gardens are making a tremendous impact on the students that have participated, more grants are being offered, and more schools are establishing gardens and kitchen curriculums every year. The joy kids find in growing and cooking their own food brings positive eating habits, leadership skills, and better attitudes. Every academic subject can be taught with illustrations from nature. Working in the garden gives kids physical activity, an understanding and respect for food and where it comes from, and a healthy diet. If kids around the world grew their own organic food in home, school, or community gardens, there would be a radical change in world health and economics. Kids can change the world by becoming more self reliant and aware of their connection to the intricate web of life by growing and cooking their own food.

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Kids Perennial Food Garden

Families can create an edible landscape in their suburban yard and take a big step towards sustainability. Especially in southern and central California which has a mild climate well suited to growing perennial veggies and abundant varieties of fruits and nuts. In the picture above, kids and parents volunteer in a school garden filled with perennials that provide a salad bar for school lunches. There are three kinds of edible plants: annuals, which flower and produce in one season; biennials, which take two growing seasons to flower and set seed; and perennials, which require little care for multiple years, even decades, of harvests. Families can create an ecosystem right where they live that provides for itself involving organic native plants, animals, birds, and insects that have been uprooted by urban expansion. Native plants used in a home’s landscape require the least amount of water and offer food and shelter for beneficial insects and wildlife. Surrounding the house with fruit trees in the correct climate varieties provides shade and sweet treats all year. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and grapes are perennial vines that kids can plant in raised beds, trellises, or on fences. Fruit trees can be planted with herbs and veggies growing under them to act as mulch. Asparagus, rhubarb, and artichokes are popular attractive perennials that can be planted as a border for the veggie garden or planted in a polyculture bed of companion perennial plants. Planting crops together is a great way to increase diversity, utilize space, and increase productivity. Sweet potatoes, chard, garlic, peppers, eggplants, and potatoes can be perennial in a frost-free environment; however, they are often grown as annuals or biennials for better flavor and to prevent diseases. Perennial veggies are great soil builders, attracting beneficial mycorrhiza fungi and improving the soil’s water holding capacity and organic matter. Most herbs are perennial and help attract pollinators and repel pests. Perennial fruits and veggies are low maintenance once they are established in a suitable climate and provide years of food at time when there is little else in the garden.

Kids Garden Tower Project

The ultimate patio farm is the Garden Tower Project, where kids can grow 50 plants in four square feet. Easy to assemble, my dog and I put it together and had it planted in a couple of hours. Plants grow faster in the Garden Tower because they are protected in their own special microclimate with a constant access to nutrient dense water. It is made from 100% recyclable food grade plastic and turns 360⁰ on a base with a rotatable lower planting ring. The Garden Tower contains a vertical vermicomposting system that has red wriggler worms living in a long tube running down the center. Kids can regularly feed the worms with organic kitchen scraps to keep the tube full. The worms turn this organic matter into worm castings, the most excellent organic fertilizer and soil amendment. The compost at the bottom of the tube turns to rich black organic matter and can be removed easily from a drawer on the bottom of the tower. As water is poured on the top to feed the plants, some of the water seeps down the compost tube absorbing nutrients from the castings and compost, feeding the plant roots and collecting at the bottom drain hole. Kids can pour the water from the drawer into a watering can to pour back on top of the tower tube adding more nutrients to the plants. The worms also aerate the soil and keep it fresh and active with microorganisms. The Garden Tower design creates a self contained system, requiring no weeding, easily accessible, and an attractive addition to the patio. This composting vertical Garden Tower is an education in ecology for school gardening programs, where kids find fun, worms, and delicious food!

Kids Bento Lunch Box

Once a Japanese culinary hobby, the Bento lunch box has caught imaginations around the world. Kids and parents can create food art with healthy edible ingredients in lunch boxes. These yummy balanced meals are visually appealing with their cute character ideas and bright colors. Bento boxes are a fun way to pack to-go meals, banish boring lunches, and please even the pickiest eaters. The designs can be simple or elaborate, with the objective of showing kids what a balanced healthy meal looks like. Kids can decorate sandwiches with eyes and mouths to look like cows, bunnies, frogs, flowers, and many more cute characters. With the sandwich as the main attractions, kids can surround it with small amounts of several different foods. Using leftovers or making organic slaw, pasta, quinoa, lentils, or rice ahead saves preparation time. The ecofriendly lunch boxes come in different materials: wood, metal, and plastic. The traditional cedar boxes have a wonderful aroma; the metal boxes are sturdy; the insulated box set keeps food warm with smaller side dish containers; and the plastic box with a domed lid protects the bento designs. Special tools are available, such as cutters, punches, and sandwich presses to make the designs; bright colored silicone cups to hold small portions of fruit or salad; sauce bottles and cups to pack salad dressings or soy sauce; and antibacterial sheets that come in a wide variety of cute designs for food dividers.

Kids can make a healthy lunch by filling half a bento box with rice and half with salad greens. Kids can use a flower cutter to punch flowers out of slices of cooked vegetables, such as carrot, butternut squash, and potato with string beans cut on a diagonal to create leaves and piece of cooked broccoli for a bush and place them on the bed of rice. Kids can add raison eyes to cherry tomatoes by making a small slit in the top for the raison and cut a small wedge from each tomato to create mouths with sesame seeds as noses. Place the tomato characters on top of the salad greens mixed with a few cooked garbanzo beans.  Kids and parents can choose something from each food group and from each color group to make a pretty meal with healthy ingredients and lots of love.

School Garden Volunteers

School gardens are outdoor classrooms where kids can experience the miracle of life and learn history, science, and math with practical applications. Most schools have a patch of dirt that can be set aside for a garden and even a greenhouse. A sunny school wall can be fitted with vertical garden to grow herbs, flowers, and veggies. Gardening gets kids excited to eat organic in season veggies that they have grown and to try new foods, establishing healthy habits for a lifetime. An organic raised bed garden in the school yard becomes a snack bowl, as kids love to snack on berries, veggies, and fruit while they pick them.

A thriving school garden needs a dedicated Garden Caretaker and a staff of loyal volunteers to keep the garden growing.  A majority of the garden chores continue through the summer when schools are closed. Many schools have summer garden parties where kids, teachers, parents, grandparents, and staff gather for a workday of garden chores, food, and fun. Everyone loves having a pizza oven in the garden, where kids can choose their favorite veggie toppings fresh from the garden.

Experienced volunteer gardeners can awaken in kids the joy of growing their own food and can help produce abundant food for school lunches. Kids can hardly wait to eat what they have grown. A Garden Caretaker opens new doors to kids that have been alienated from nature, abused, or bullied, with their knowledge of the interaction of growing things and their consistent presence in the garden.  Studies show that kids who spend time outdoors, playing in nature, and growing an organic veggie garden are healthier and happier. The Garden Caretaker sets up schedules, organizes work parties, shows what to plant where, and keeps the garden flourishing.

When kids learn to grow their own food with experienced gardeners, they develop healthy eating habits, gain confidence and self sufficiency, and learn life skills. School gardens give kids not only food, but exercise, science projects, and a sense of connection to all life.

Kids Cooking Class

Kids can sign up for a fun cooking class at their local park and recreation center or YMCA and learn basic skills, like following a recipe and using kitchen equipment safely. Cooking classes inspire kids to try new foods, as kids want to eat what they have prepared. There are many great cookbooks for kids at the library for inspiration. Some elementary, middle, and high schools have cooking and nutrition classes. When kids learn to cook from scratch, it can be a live changing experience and they learn healthy habits for a lifetime. Kids can learn to read the Nutrition Facts label on packages of processed food and discover these junk foods are loaded with too much sugar, fat, and salt plus the unnatural ingredients that help foods last longer and travel better. At a cooking class, kids discover that whole foods, prepared with fresh ingredients are tastier than eating junk food that are high in calories and low in nutrients with unnatural additives that harm their health. Some grandparents enjoy sharing their style of cooking and passing down their favorite recipes. There are ethnic food classes available where kids can learn to cook basic Italian, French, Asian, or Middle Eastern dishes. These cultures have been preparing healthy food from scratch for generations. Kids can take vegan and vegetarian cooking classes where they learn to use plant based proteins like quinoa, beans, and nuts in their dishes. Kids can learn to make their favorites snacks and treats with organic whole grains, fruits, and nuts. Kids’ minds and senses awaken to new flavors and experiences in cooking classes.

Kids Edible Campus

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School gardens give kids not only food, but exercise, science projects, and the connection to what is alive on the planet around us.  Kids can start an organic school garden with a few herbs in pots by the classroom door. With teacher and parent support, kids can expand their garden by growing veggies and fruit trees in the unused places across the school campus. Edible gardens can bring people together planning and planting the garden, growing and harvesting their produce, and sharing organic produce within the community. Growing food in urban places, on patios, roofs, and fences is happening across the country as our population surges past 7 billion. More families want to know what’s in their food and are asking for organic whole fruits and veggies.

School gardens offer outdoor education.  Kids can learn math and science lessons while building and decorating raised bed garden boxes. Raised Bed Gardens are abundantly productive, cost effective, accessible to all ages, and can create beautiful berry patches or butterfly gardens along the campus pathways. Kids can learn about the microbial life in the rich organic vegetable potting soil as they fill their raised bed boxes.  Kids can study the seasons, the interaction of beneficial insects, and the synergy of life in the garden, while attaching nets, covers, and trellises to their boxes. Kids’ brains are charged in the garden with exercise, fresh air, smelling the herbs, communing with the microbes in the soil, and listening to the birds and bees. Kids can install a drip watering system with a battery run timer which delivers water right to the plant’s root. Vertical crops, like pole beans, can be planted in containers and bring a living tapestry to a grey concrete wall. Kids love growing in pizza slice-shaped garden boxes, planting toppings like basil, oregano, tomato, eggplant, and peppers with mulched paths delineating the pizza slices and making it easy to access the beds. Installing a pizza oven can be an inspiration to bring the community together over pizzas topped with school grown organic ingredients.  Kids can start an organic container garden at their school and illustrate the abundance of organic produce that can be grown in urban places.