Lunch Love Community – Lauren Marie Paterson

I will start by stating the obvious: Lunch Love Community seems like such a neat program! I wish that our school had initiated a similar program when I was growing up, as it seems like an interactive activity that could fit perfectly with any lesson plan or educational model. The kids seemed to be having so much fun, and weren’t shy about eating up the food they had helped cultivate and care for.

I was interested in the science behind the affect of such a program, and was able to find research conducted by the Department of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Minnesota whose focus groups were comprised of inner-city youth in Minneapolis/St. Paul. In their research; “the findings suggest that garden programs positively impact youth garden habits, food choice, social skills, nutrition knowledge, and cooking skills.”  Those are some big targets that could probably help many teachers and school programs, so it would certainly be ideal if every school had a similar program.

I was also happy to see that there are similar programs springing up in the US, such as Washington DC’s CommonGood CityFarm. Their tag line is “Growing food, cultivating community,” with a mission to present a replicable model of what they call “a community-based urban food system.”  I think programs such as these are also important, since they focus on education for a range of ages and ethnicities as diverse as the community they serve, and many people in communities presently may not have had the benefit of a garden during their time in school.

My seventh grade social studies teacher would always remark how he needed to take a break in class and “check on his tomato plants, “ and I was initially really excited! I thought it was so cool to have a few tomato plants growing by the side of my middle school and even tried to look for them. My hopes were dashed when my fellow students pointed out that Mr. Roberts didn’t actually have tomato plants, but had a token phrase for going out to have a cigarette. I hope you have enjoyed my completely anecdotal example of the garden presence in the Southern Idaho public school system. I do think it’s slightly pathetic that such an agriculturally centered society would have trouble putting together a program like this, but perhaps they haven’t tried. For goodness sake, I could see cows and corn from my school window! It’s either probably apathy, or lack of funding, which brings me to my questions this week:

  • Do you think programs such as these are sustainable in low-income schools with limited funding?
  • Could ‘Media Socials’ not only serve as a way to engage community participation, but perhaps as a way to acquire funding from potential sponsors until funds are distributed more fairly to schools?
  • Would low-income schools in more rural, agricultural areas be dismissive of such a program since it’s so close to much of the surrounding community’s way of life already?
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1 comment to Lunch Love Community – Lauren Marie Paterson

  • jarrattt@uoregon.edu

    I bet your agriculturally minded community didn’t have the same ethic with respect to their school’s lunches for the same reason that the Berkeley schools were still serving the unhealthy food before the new standards were implemented: The head of the school lunch program didn’t want to change. Any requests to do things differently were denied. They were just to entrenched in the ways that were familiar. Opening cans and heating up food for lunch was just too easy. I imagine this is how most school lunch programs operate regardless of being located in a city or rural area. Or they do what my high school did, which seems so crazy to think about now. Every day of the week we would have a different fast food restaurant come in. I went to a private school that had money, so I question whether or not implementing these programs has to do with low-income schools vs. well funded schools (though obviously money is necessary) as much as it has to do with a willingness to change.

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