The Schoolyard Foodie: 2012 — The beginning or the end?

by GEHRY OATEY

A Mayan elder told me recently to forget all the BS about 2012 (he didn’t quite use those words). No, the world is not coming to an end, despite all evidence to the contrary from Hollywood. According to this wise elder and farmer, 2012 is the end of another cycle; we are leaving a 100 year period of war and violence and entering into 100 year cycle of wisdom.  My Buddhist leanings aside… from what I see happening around food and middle school kids, I think he may be right.

I see it every Tuesday and Friday: ceviche, tomatadas, how about some homemade pizza with organically grown produce, sushi, eggrolls (heck yes—fried), sweet potato pancake caramelized and served with some fresh greens from the market… I’m not talking about what I eat at home. And I’m not talking about any of Julia Child’s 524 recipes that I wrote about in a previous blog either.

I’m talking about Middle School Kids.  Hells yeah.  Not only do they cook and prepare the food mentioned above, they run the weekly produce stand as well! That’s right—the kids are so “over” the food they are being served in the cafeteria, they will work for 3 hours outside of school unpaid in order to take home some fresh produce. They will even put on an apron and plastic gloves. Sure, it is a gigantic mess, but the crazy thing is they actually clean it up! How many 13 year olds do you know who clean up after themselves? For those of you who are down with middle school kids, you are nodding your head right now with a smile.

If this weren’t impressive enough on its own, they do all of this after sitting in school for 6 hours a day. Not all days are spent in the kitchen either.  Some days are spent learning about diabetes, the Monsanto monopoly, or how to see through the veil of a nutrition label. They make art about obesity prevention, art that is fearless in its demand for food justice and a better educated populace.  They will preach to you about nutrition, tell you to quit eating that bag of nasty Cheetos, and point out the many deficiencies in the school lunches.

These are the students who are going to make our next 100 years of wisdom a reality.  I see it every week in the classroom and in the kitchen. They are carrying us into that 100 years of wisdom.  It is up to us as educators to provide the science and educational experiences to propel them even further. So if you don’t have a cooking/nutrition/gardening program at your school, then you missing the boat, homey…

“He, who controls the seeds, controls the food supply and thus controls the people.” (The Future of Food, 2004)

Gehry teaches cooking and gardening to middle schoolers at Melrose Leadership Academy in East Oakland.

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9 Comments

Filed under Classroom Reflections, Essays, The Schoolyard Foodie

9 responses to “The Schoolyard Foodie: 2012 — The beginning or the end?

  1. I love what you are doing for our kids! I am horrified when our students eat corn dogs for breakfast. You are giving them a real gift.

  2. Elsa

    Thanks for the good work and passing on information about achieving progress Gehry. With all the bad things we read and hear on the commercial media about Oakland. It is good to know that our young people are getting the good word and practices to develop life long healthy habits.

  3. Jill

    Yes- excellent work… so glad to hear things are moving forward… you are planting seeds in our youth- actually pulling from what they already know through their indigenous cultures…. Just visited the Farmers’ Market with 3rd graders and had discussions on locally grown and organic food….. My frustrations, or the challenges, come from reinventing the wheel when it’s not necessary. I don’t always have the time to do thorough research so a lot times I use only what is easily accessible. I look forward to the work that is to come and to hearing more about yours.

  4. Mary

    Sweet article Gehry! Thanks for your inspiring work and spreading the good word about your students!

  5. suzi umbenhour

    Hey Gehry, this is such a wonderful program you are promoting with these young people and I am so thrilled by the response you are getting! Keep working to insure (and inspire!) the future generation is involved in growing and providing organic food for themselves and the world. We need more programs with a hands on approach!

  6. I WANT YOUR JOB. No really, how did you get to do this? It sounds so wonderful, keep up the good work!

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