Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lessons in Sustainability From a Harlem School Garden to a Local Farm

Tomorrow a group of 6th grade students from Promise Academy will celebrate the last day of the regular school year (they attend a modified program through the summer), with a visit to Stone Barns a non-profit farm and education center located just 25 miles north of Manhattan in Pocantico Hills, New York. According to their website, "Stone Barns operates an 80-acre four-season farm and is working on broader initiatives to create a healthy and sustainable food system."

In preparation for the trip, the students spent some extra time this week in our own school garden talking about what a sustainable food system means, understanding pollination, sampling and comparing Swiss Chard to Dinosaur Kale, and defining our own local food system. We even created our own set of sustainable vocabulary words to study on One thing that came up continually is the distinction between the food that's locally available and the food that's actually local. If you walk down 125th Street in Harlem you'll encounter nearly every national Fast Food chain serving up $1 Cheeseburgers and buckets of Fried Chicken. Several students were curious if this counted as local food?

Local food is actually food that is GROWN within a 100-mile radius of your home. Food that's available right outside your front door is not necessarily local. In fact, most food served at national fast food chains (besides being heavily processed, high in all kinds of questionable ingredients, calories and fat) travels pretty far to get to that storefront in Harlem. This is where the concept of "Food Miles" is helpful. Students learned to ask the question, how far has something traveled to get to my plate? As we chomped down on fresh Kale from our own school garden, we smiled at the sweet taste of fresh food that had traveled just an arms length from the ground to our mouths!

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