Quality lunches are often a big concern for our schools, both public and private. Whether it’s managing the mass amounts of meals served daily, or tending to the needs of taste and proper nourishment, it seems difficult to find a solution that works for everyone. At the same time, proper nutrition should be a priority as we want our children to learn and grow.
Daystar Academy has taken this topic very seriously and just recently launched their own school lunch program for K-grade 6. Based initially on the Edible Schoolyard Project by Alice Waters in Berkeley, California (www.edibleschoolyard.org), Daystar looked at supporting local farmers, bringing in organic produce, and providing a tasty, nutritional meal for their students. In addition, they wanted to instill a sense of responsibility and community during the lunchtime meal.
Spearheading this initiative at Daystar is marketing manager Kristin Lack, who in turn enlisted the help of Lillian Chou, well-known for her food expertise. Together, they’ve worked together to create a new eating environment for their school. Only two weeks into the program, it is being tweaked and perfected and has been well-received all around from students to faculty/staff and parents.
Kids have been placed into “school families” which include nine students from grades 1-6 and three adults (teachers/administrators). Kids take turns being assigned the job of “jumper” – the person who leaves class 10 minutes early to set their table and gather the foods they will then serve. Members of that school family sit together every day, talk, and enjoy their meal together. Any leftovers are put in a bowl that will be composted. A “back-up jumper” handles clean-up duty, which includes vinegar/water solutions for cleaning and washable rags.
Chou has sourced local farmers finding as much organic produce as possible. Kids see where the foods come from, help serve it, and learn about waste and composting. They give their own personal input into the meals served, saying what they like and what they don’t (pleasing tastes from different cultures is a challenge). They also learn about seasonal and local foods, supporting local farmers along the way. Much of the produce is also sold on-site to faculty and staff.
The school currently has a small garden tended by staff, but it’s not nearly enough to create school lunches. In the future, Daystar would like to have the garden tended by a kitchen teacher who will involve students in the growing process. They are also in the process of building their own compost system.
A farmer’s market featuring local farmed produce was tested a couple of weeks ago, working out well and bringing about 2,000 people in. Their hope is to start a regular Sunday morning farmer’s market right there at Daystar supporting local farmers, and they are hoping for a June launch.
While any kinks in the program are still being worked out, faculty and staff are noticing differences in their students – their energy levels, the way they are taking pride in their responsibilities, and their newfound appreciation for food and school lunches. Daystar believes that if you put food into the curriculum, it give kids an early taste for good foods and a better understanding of where it comes from. It helps kids learn about being mindful of the environment, of their bodies, and of each other.
Photo by ClatieK of flickr.