Just as I started my position as Farm to Table Apprentice at Woolman, the students began a unit on food access. First they watched the documentary A Place at the Table, about food insecurity in the United States. The documentary highlighted the lack of federal funding for the food stamp budget, as well as the subsidies the government provides for industrial agriculture that allow processed, sugar-laden food products to be so cheap and readily available. Families forced to survive on these services end up relying on refined carbohydrates and sugars, contributing to the prevalence of diet-related illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. The students discussed the film afterwards, deciphering where their experiences fit in among the spectrum of food access. The film was powerful, and I could see the awareness and motivation it brought to the students.
In our next class, students got to put this newfound information into practice. The class was split into four groups, and each group was assigned an identity: farmer, college student, single parent or insurance broker. They were assigned a likely budget based on those identities, and then asked to prepare a snack for the class using that budget. We priced everything in our kitchen to match market prices, and gave each group different allowances – for example, the farmer had a very tight budget but eggs and produce were free for them!
I am always impressed with the students' skill in the kitchen and this class was no different. Every group managed to prepare something tasty and healthy, although the differences in what they could each afford were striking. All in all we had two different smoothies, two varieties of egg scramble, a big kale salad and popcorn made in coconut oil sprinkled with cinnamon and dark chocolate chips.
Here at Woolman, we have the luxury of a big garden that gives us fresh produce, herbs and fruit. We buy organic pantry ingredients, and we have talented staff that prepare healthy meals that accommodate many different dietary needs. We eat vegan cashew cheesecake, sweet potato fries, homemade kraut and huge fresh salads on the regular. So it is all the more important to learn about and recognize the food disparity that exists in our country, and for our students to be inspired to find creative solutions so that this kind of fresh, delicious healthy food becomes more accessible to everyone.
Kale Salad getting thoroughly massaged by our farmers