Analon recently donated two sets of cookware to Slow Food Delta Diablo for use in our Slow Food in Schools projects. Lesley Stiles has already begun using it at both Diablo Community Day School and College Park High School. This is a wonderful donation. A bit about the schools is below.
Diablo Community Day School has 62 students in grades 7-12. DCD is considered an urban fringe school serving students with specific challenges. Of these, 32% are African American, 5% are Asian, 37% are Hispanic or Latino and 26% are White. Sixty-five percent of the students are considered socioeconomically disadvantaged, 33% are English learners and 22% are disabled. Students are enrolled in DCD through the expulsion process or as recommended by the School Attendance Review Board or Probation Department. For most of these students, it is their last chance to complete school in a public school setting. On California proficiency tests all students tested below proficient in English, Math and Science and none of the students scored at or above the national average in reading or math. There is a 30% dropout rate. Slow Food Delta Diablo worked with the students at DCD through a Slow Food in Schools mini-grant and funding from Kaiser Permanente to create an organic garden. In addition, garden coordinators who are not school staff and are members of Slow Food Delta Diablo work one day per week in the garden, and doing cooking demonstrations and taste education.
Our project started in the fall of 2008 with the building of raised beds, importation of soil and compost and the installation of a timed irrigation system. Students at DCD were involved in all aspects of the garden creation. From the outset there were students who were enthusiastic and others who were not. However, over the course of this school year, we have all witnessed changes in the students’ attitudes toward the garden and our weekly activities.
After the garden was planted, we set up weekly visits on Tuesdays. The students who want to work with us in the garden receive community service credit. In addition to working in the garden, we have cooking demonstrations and taste education, usually utilizing garden harvest but sometimes bringing in unusual grain varieties and fruits.
We made Kim Chee with the students one week and the next week, one of the teachers cooked fried rice for us all to eat with the Kim Chee the students had made. All of the students tried the Kim Chee after making it the week before and the teacher enjoyed sharing her food heritage with the students. The students at the school are now aware of how a garden grows, what different foods not only taste like but that there are different foods for them to try that they actually like.
We attended the open house for parents and community members and cooked 3 varieties of peas, broccoli and onions harvested from the garden for the event. Students took their parents out to the garden to show them what they had created. At the close of the school year, we hosted a garden feast. We made salsa for our feast from the garden with our jalapeños, cilantro and onions. Students have learned that eating together and discussing the differences in foods can be a positive and fun experience. They have seen that they do not have to be afraid of expressing their opinions and they have become patient and observant in the garden. Many of them have been transformed by the garden. Their behavior has changed as have their eating habits and they are excited when it is garden day.
College Park High School has 2,074 students in grades 9-12. It is primarily a suburban high school with high academic achievement. The garden at College Park was initiated by the same garden coordinators and Slow Food members as the garden at DCD. Participation in the garden differs at this school due to the size of the student body but by the time of graduation, most students have participated in garden education at some point of their high school experience. We started this school project with the intent to enrich the special education curriculum but it has been so successful that all aspects of the school are now involved.
We have biology classes doing composting, we have the foods classes helping us with maintenance, we have photo classes out there all the time snapping shots, we have 3 amazing murals that the art classes have painted in the garden. Students come out to work, talk, eat, sit all day long. The special ed classes plant, weed, pick, maintain, and are the back bone of the garden. All the food we do not use in our cooking demonstrations for students goes into the cafeteria. There is a new academy within College Park this year, the EcoTech Academy that is based on the garden. It is amazing!
In addition to the school based activities there are also Eagle Scout projects going on in the garden. For example, a split rail fence was built by a special day scout to house our table grapes, a couple of potting tables were built by another special day scout for working in the garden. This has become a true community project based at the school for the benefit of the students.