From Farm to Table and Everything in Between

On Saturday, March 8, the Teens for Food Justice team kicked off National Nutrition Month at the Seeds of Change Hydroponic Farm in Bed-Stuy by bringing a full cycle of good nutrition and healthy lifestyle resources to the families of New Beginnings Charter School.

The Complete Package

The teens combined their experience as hydroponic farmers, their knowledge of the health benefits of the produce they grow, and their recent Shopping Matters training to lead workshops in practical, healthy shopping on a budget, cooking nutritious food at home, and recipe tastings demonstrating how delicious healthy, produce-rich meals can be.

At the end of the day, families went home with a complete set of tools to incorporate more produce and other healthy foods into their diets. Each received a simple recipe for a family of four that can be purchased for $10 or less, featuring whole grains, lean proteins and vegetables. Recipes came with a complementary tote bag containing the complete set of ingredients for that meal and a map and list of local markets for affordable produce.

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Is Healthy More Delicious? Affordable? We Say Yes!

Here’s how our outreach workshops, each focusing on a different step in the process of eating healthy, drove this point home:

Shopping Matters

This comprehensive training is available to the public through No Kid Hungry and Share Our Strength. It is a guide to using unit pricing and food labels to get the biggest nutritional bang for your buck when grocery shopping.

The Teens for Food Justice volunteer team spent its February service day receiving this training in a Bed-Stuy supermarket. The group then spent the following month working hard to replicate this experience for adults and children by creating a mock supermarket at the school. On Saturday, the teens led families through the training, facilitating conversations about how to make nutritious choices on a budget in the aisles they created in the New Beginnings cafeteria.

During the training, families had the opportunity to shop for a healthy recipe for turkey tacos in order to compare its price and nutritional benefit per person with that of a fast food restaurant meal. To the surprise of all participants, the teens clearly demonstrated that cooking at home is indeed less expensive and vastly healthier than buying fast food.

Cooking Demonstrations

With the help of local community chef Sia Pickett of Malata Cuisine, families also learned simple steps for cooking tasty recipes with whole grains and the types of leafy greens grown in the Seeds of Change classroom farm. Recipe incorporated all food groups, and demonstrated how to use the ingredients in the complementary tote bags participants were given to take home.

Tastes of Our Harvest

As we learned in our January outreach, giving tastes of leafy greens to children is one of the most exciting parts of a service day. Volunteers gave out samples of the lettuce, collards, mustard greens, pac choi, basil, kale, and chard we grow in the greenhouse and explained the nutritional benefits of each crop, while the room rang out with excited exclamations like “come here, you have to taste this, it’s spicy!” and “wow, I didn’t know kale was going to taste that good…can I have more?” Families were given the opportunity to taste the recipes they learned in the cooking demonstration alongside the fresh produce they contained, enjoying the comparison between their flavors cooked and raw.

Hard Work and Commitment for a Good Cause

The morning began with some exciting new additions to the greenhouse classroom, as we welcomed five new volunteers to our team. Our experienced team members provided training on the greenhouse and its operations and led the new teens in creating the day’s outreach activities.

Next the teens took the final step in our greenhouse construction—the planting of our vine crops. Seedlings of olive tomatoes, tomatillos and sweet peppers were at last tall and strong enough to be transplanted into the vine crop system, where they will grow to yield a delicious harvest on our June service day.

Throughout the previous month, the greenhouse classroom was decorated with artwork created by New Beginnings students to reflect agricultural, sustainability, and health themes. Now, with the vine crop lights adding their warmth to rows of hardy seedlings the greenhouse felt even more complete and welcoming as the teens shared their knowledge and resources for healthy living with the New Beginnings community.

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March is National Nutrition Month (NNM) and Students for Service Teens for Food Justice is proud to “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right” and be included in the 2014 NNM blogroll.

National Nutrition Month is a nutrition education and information campaign sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign is designed to focus attention on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. Learn more about NNM here.
 

Empowering Teens Feeding Communities Building a Healthy Sustainable Future