September 11, 2010, 02:55AM
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Seed to Tray Education in Public SchoolsWe all know: School food service sucks. Kids don't get enough time outside. Families don't cook. Basic kitchen AND farming skills are being lost in a single generation. A problem? Yes. But not one without a beautifully integrated solution: Seed to Tray Education. In plain English: put kids in charge of their own school lunch!
The best kinds of educational opportunities integrate learning with solving a real-world problem. Kids are amazing, natural problem solvers. They also have all kinds of different abilities, different loves. But the beauty of what educators call "experiential education" is that it takes a child's unique set of abilities and skills and puts them to good use toward something real-world, something tangible... something like lunch.
WHY LUNCH NEEDS TO CHANGE:
The state of school food is currently a Frankensteinian nightmare of epic proportions. It's not just the hot Cheetos and strawberry milk. It's seemingly wholesome foods laden with food & flavor chemicals. Mashed potatoes with something called "shortening powder", hamburgers flavored with "thiamine hydrochloride" (and no, I didn't make that up).
Food service companies whine the day away: "We can't AFFORD to serve healthy meals, fresh produce is sooooo expensive."
Are your eyes rolling yet?
START AT ONE SCHOOL:
Why not try this experiment: let's put the freshest young brains on the planet in charge of their own lunch. Not just cooking it, but planning it, running it as a business. Being in charge in a world that doesn't give kids the chance to own anything except electronic gadgets.
I've worked with middle schoolers for years. I would bet, hands-down, if you told a group of 8th graders that they were now in charge of the cafeteria program and that they had $2.59 a meal to feed their fellow students, they would be more than up to the task. With a little more guidance and support, a group of 5th graders could source and cook for their younger schoolmates.
For High School students, I could see being on the “lunch crew” becoming a competitive program, something students can put on college applications and use to demonstrate interest in anything from environmental studies to a fast-track MBA program.
DO WHAT YOU'RE GOOD AT:
Work with your hands? You bet. School gardens can provide most of the produce, and the kids most inclined can be in charge of farm operations.
Math whiz? We have a job for you. Calculate food costs - you're our head purchaser and bean counter - literally!
Leader of the pack? Let's get you down to the farmers' market where you can negotiate a rock-bottom price for the farmer's leftovers (that would head to the compost pile otherwise). Feel like being a star? Go talk to the local Rotary about getting some extra funds for fresh foods.
Artistic type? Ooooh - yeah! We need to get the kids to EAT this stuff, right? You'll be designing a marketing and advertising campaign to sell our new meals.
ROLE MODELS LEAD THE WAY:
We need to get chefs, restauranteurs, farmers, and small businesses into the act. Each aspect of school food service can be overseen by a mentor with real-world experience. With just a little guidance, the right information and tools, we could put kids in charge of their own lunches.
THE BIG REWARD:
In the end, a student-run food service will help kids to:
- Understand themselves better and learn how to shine.
- Learn what it means to eat healthy food,
- Become self-sufficient cooks and enterpreneurs-to-be, and most importantly --
Put all hand-wringing aside, and help themselves and the world come to the realization that...
THEY ARE PERFECTLY CAPABLE OF SAVING THEMSELVES.
concept submitted by: Liz Snyder
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