Every day at the CitySprouts Summer Youth Program, our middle-school interns cook their own lunch using produce harvested from the school garden. After four weeks of delicious meals, the interns leave the program with a taste for whole foods picked right from the ground. FoodCorps Service Member Amanda Chin worked closely with interns at the Morse School this summer, and she shared this on-the-ground report of cooking and eating in the CitySprouts Summer Program.
Every intern has a favorite dish. For Ariah, it’s stir fry and tzatziki. She says, “it was a really fun experience making the foods and going to the store.” Danato loved the hash browns. “We shredded the potatoes, mixed it with salt and pepper and chives from the garden; and then cooked them on our skillet until they were nice and crispy,” he explained. The interns are always eager to tell me what they loved the most.
Usually we cook by the book. Ariah’s favorites—the stir fry and tzatziki—are in the CitySprouts Summer Cookbook, developed over the years by CitySprouts staff, volunteers, and the middle-school interns themselves. The cookbook has 20 different garden-based recipes, including sauces, entrees, beverages, and grains. It is a great starting point for the interns to build skills in how to comprehend a recipe and think about the components that go into a dish. Once they get the basics down, they want to invent recipes of their own: Danato’s hash browns were a stroke of inspiration!
As part of the lesson on food systems in comparing cost, quality, and distance traveled from grower to grocery, the students had $30 divided between two groups of the fifteen of them to make decisions about how to feed themselves for that day and purchase items to put together their lunch. They impressed me with their ability to self-organize and take responsibility for what they eat.
Back in the garden, the students prepare their lunch and are responsible for all of the steps each day. The three adults in the garden—the CitySprouts garden coordinator, FoodCorps service member, and college fellow—are constantly deflecting questions back to the students so that they problem solve for themselves in a supported environment. Now in week four, the last week of the session, the middle school interns are self-sufficient and checking each other to stay on task in their rotating groups. Kat, a student going into eighth grade says, “Supervising is hard but I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s hard to get everyone in one place and doing the right thing. It’s fun having some responsibility.” The students share cooking chores: kitchen supervisor, harvester, composter, washer, mixer, and chopper.
Another older intern, Anya, expertly reflected nearing the end of one of our meals, “Respect all the hard work that goes into the meal and all the things you don’t see upfront.”
Download the CitySprouts Summer Cookbook to find a treasure trove of kid-friendly garden recipes. Try them at home, and let us know what you think!