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.