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NEWSFLASH: Food Comes From Gardens

October 20, 2010

If you’re living and breathing you’ve probably noticed there has been a groundswell of interest in gardening lately.  You yourself probably garden.  And in a fabulous turn of events, little schoolyard gardens are popping up all over the country.  Most people agree it is wonderful to expose our youngsters to the joys, responsibilities and occasional heartbreaks of gardening.  You plant seeds, water them, watch them grow, weed the beds and come fall, you what?  Harvest them, yeah.  But as Monica Eng tells us in her great Chicago Tribune story, if your youngster lives in Chicago, he or she will not be eating them.

Curious, isn’t it?

Yup, turns out the muckety-mucks in charge of the world are not so comfortable with kids eating from these school gardens.  And rather than work to have these gardens meet “specific/certified growing practices” (whatever that may mean to the lawyers and such), the decision is just to forbid kids from eating their hard-earned food.  Yup, better to just keep giving them that highly processed stuff instead.  Wouldn’t want them to swell with pride at the idea of eating a tomato they’ve grown.  Wouldn’t want them to maybe try eating something they haven’t had before.  Nope, can’t have that.

I can only speak for myself, but it turns out I had two little visitors in our March 3 garden this past weekend.  They’re good friends of mine – they call me Uncle Grant – and in truth, they are pretty good eaters in general.  But of course there are things they haven’t tried or don’t think they like.  James for example had never tasted fennel and was pretty down on tomatoes.  Please pardon my cell-phone pictures, but I think they illustrate how I feel right now about kids in gardens.  James was willing to taste fennel and a black cherry tomato.  They may not be his new favorite food, but his horizons are expanding.  I’m not sure, but I think that’s what’s supposed to happen at schools.

Sophia making a composed "salad" for Aunt Carolyn

James, hamming it up with his new friend, fennel

Uncle Grant, can we have eggs for breakfast?

I was so proud of my little friends that day.  They tried new things, they held chickens, they raked out the chicken coop of their own accord: “I’m doing it for the chickens!”  They left with fresh eggs, chicken poop on their shoes and dirt under their fingernails.  It warms my heart to see a valuable afternoon like that unfold.  I am humbly grateful that I have the March 3 garden at my disposal to share.  And I am glad to say we ate from the garden that day because that’s what gardens are for!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Anna permalink
    October 21, 2010 2:52 am

    It’s unfortunate that schools would take the time and initiative to get kids interested in gardening but not let them reap the rewards of their endeavors. There’s an additional missed opportunity as Grant documents in these photographs, too. What kid wouldn’t be tempted to at least try the carrot or other vegetable they grew with their own hands? Anyone who has kids knows that the carrot is a far better motivator to children than the stick.

    As a mother of a son at public schools with non-stop fundraising, I think I have a solution. The schools could spend a day harvesting their crops and then allow the students to sell them along with their regular bake sale goodies (and if moms are so inclined they could even incorporate some of those garden items into their recipes).

  2. Michelle permalink
    October 21, 2010 10:46 am

    Great article and pics. The little girl reminds me a bit of Annabel. And Annabel isn’t a big fan of tomatoes either, but she’s tasted several of the ones that came from the plants we grew together in our balcony garden! I am shocked that kids can grow veggies in their school gardens but not eat them! But I like Anna’s idea as a way of getting around the red tape.

    • October 21, 2010 3:27 pm

      Anna, Michelle,

      Thanks so much for your comments. It’s funny that Anna’s idea would be allowed (although I believe bake sales are prohibited these days at Chicago schools…not sure on that). If folks are concerned about food safety, they wouldn’t let the kids eat the food grown AT ALL. If you read Monica Eng’s story though, it says the kids are welcome to take the food home (and eat it). The “muckety-mucks” obviously have only the possible legal troubles in mind.


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