Service Day 3 at New Beginnings Charter School was jam-packed with activities for both the Teens for Food Justice team and the community.
The teens began the morning evaluating our harvest and troubleshooting climate control challenges in the greenhouse classroom. This discussion was led by NY Sun Works greenhouse manager Ashley King and Miles Crettien, project manager at City Hydroponics, the company that developed our greenhouse’s vertical growing system. The group also discussed the business of hydroponics and various career paths available in this burgeoning industry. Then, we dove into our work for the day.
Harvesting, Building, and a Touch of Art for Social Good
Volunteers spent the morning working in groups to harvest our first produce, plant 500 seedlings for our next round of growing, and set up the light system for our vine crops. In addition, artists from The Laundromat Project, a community organization that mingles art with social justice outreach, led the teens in silkscreen-printing maps of local healthy food resources onto 100 canvas tote bags, which will be used for community produce distribution in March.
All the while, delicious smells wafted from one side of our big greenhouse classroom. Local chef and holistic health coach Lauren Unger of Hint of Greens was busy preparing dozens of recipe samples for our afternoon healthy food tasting program for the New Beginnings community, featuring foods cooked from the same crops we are growing in our greenhouse farm.
Community Outreach: Cook, Eat, Love
In the afternoon, close to 100 New Beginnings students and parents joined us in the greenhouse to learn about the produce we’re growing! The volunteer team set up tasting stations for each vegetable grown in our hydroponic farm, giving each community member an opportunity to compare the taste of freshly harvested produce with simple, affordable recipes incorporating what we grow.
Featured recipes included cilantro lime dressing, lettuce and tomato salad, bok choy slaw, basil pesto, tomato kale pasta sauce and Swiss chard turkey & cheese wraps. Our own mentor, Dan O’Halloran, prepared delicious banana kale smoothies.
At each station, teens shared nutrition information and recipe ideas, gleaned from their own research last service day, to inform parents and children about the health benefits of key vitamins and minerals provided by our crops. Our visitors were able to taste our produce both fresh from the garden and cooked, and we were happy to see skeptical faces turn appreciative after trying the delicious samples, and to feel the engagement of parents and children requesting recipes and information for preparing these foods at home.
A Fun Ending to a Fruitful Day
The team brought the day to a satisfying close by working together to hang a giant banner outside the classroom, which they had designed and illustrated to welcome the community to our farm. Surrounded by positive energy and satisfied smiles, the banner hanging was a perfect ending to a day of true community impact: as New Beginnings students and their parents excitedly toured the greenhouse, sharing new information, and demonstrating their enthusiasm for incorporating the “fruits” and lessons of the greenhouse into their daily lives.