First Day of SchoolPosted: August 6, 2012 | |
The first day of school went great. Except we were 1/2 hour late picking up the kids. Madison district gets out earlier now, and we forgot. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones–I just hope we haven’t already been put on the bad parents list I am absolutely certain they keep in the office.
I’m excited about school lunches this year. I talked to the Patricia Hunn, cafeteria manager at Madison Camelview, and, if my first impression is accurate, she’s brilliant. She’s knowledgeable and seems enthusiastic about improving the food program. She brought up starting a school garden, and my heart skipped a beat. She said Camelview used to have one–I’ll have to find out more about that. We talked about several options, but she said a farm-to-school program would be the best thing to spend this year putting into place. The main obstacle is finding a farm willing to participate. That might be a good place to start, then.
Last Saturday I hit up the downtown farmers’ market looking for farmers. First I went to One Windmill Farm because they’re the biggest. I talked to the weird old guy who runs the farm–I think his name is John. As he was ringing up my squash and melons, I asked him if his farm would be interested in participating in a farm-to-school program in the Madison elementary district. He said nothing. He didn’t even look at me. After I’d paid, he finally looked up. “We tried that many years ago and the bureaucracy was terrible. I had to report every employee for tax purposes and blah blah blah blah blah. I wish I’d listened more carefully, but I was just squirming and sweating and I wanted to leave. I’m not going back to his stupid stall. The signs don’t even tell you if the stuff is organic. They have carrots in August, too, which is suspect. Plus, on their website, you have to listen to John Denver (Thank God I’m a Country Boy) in order to see the slide show. I love their fruit, though. Maybe I’ll find forgiveness in my heart–but I definitely won’t go next week.
So, I was off to a less than auspicious start. The next stall, the IRC tables, couldn’t have been cooler. I love the International Rescue Committee because they’ve helped nearly all my students. They’re an amazing organization. The IRC now has several farmers, mostly Somali refugees, I think, renting land in Gila Bend. The New Roots Farm Program allows refugees to rebuild their lives and do meaningful work–I go to their tables every time I go downtown. The people are great. I talked to two Somali women last time and they couldn’t have been friendlier. One of these days, I’ll bring a Somali student to translate for me, so I can ask more questions. The guy volunteering (I forgot his name–stupid, stupid) was very cute. If I see him again, I’ll try to set him up with one of my single friends. He said the IRC might be receptive to the farm-to-school program and gave me the New Roots Farm coordinator’s number. I’m supposed to call early next week. I can’t wait.
The other success was a gentleman selling produce at the Crooked Sky Farm. He said the farmer, Frank, might be interested. I’m calling him this week. In addition to being very friendly, he was giving out sample of jujubes which were delicious. I got a little basket of purple okra, too. I love him very much.
Finally, I got a lead from a new company started by two ASU graduates called Chow Locally, an internet subscription program working with many local farmers–kind of like a commercial CSA. You can buy by the month, so I think I’ll try them and report back. The woman handing out information at the market said that I should call Chris Wharton (PhD), one of the business’ founders.
I hope one of these pans out. I have a couple more farms I want to contact, so I’ll update soon. If the IRC is interested, then all my dreams will have come true.
I got the school lunch menu today, and it’s not completely horrifying. You’ll see there’s a lot of room for improvement, though. True–a few times a week, kids get two real vegetables. But frequently they get a vegetable and a “vegetable.” In the “vegetable” category, we have mashed potatoes, oven fries, baked beans, ice berg lettuce–foods that are either really high in carbohydrates, really low in nutrients or both. Why not squash, sweet potato fries, spicy black beans or braised kale? I also don’t get why kids have the option of a turkey dog when the cafeteria’s serving hummus, veggies and cheese. When the cafeteria is offering a fresh, healthy, tasty lunch, why would they offer the choice of a bland, unattractive, processed one? I have a few more issues (my issues with the milk alone might need a separate blog), but it seems like lunches are improving overall–there’s hope.