The Kids Are Alright!
August 12th, 2011 - By Therese Madden
That's what the West Oak Lane residents are saying about the students at Martin Luther King High School. In addition to growing their own vegetables, they share (and prepare) them quite nicely.
Find out more about the Seeds for Learning program. A school-based farm and entrepreneurship program.
Guess what? There is such a thing as a free lunch! West Oak Lane resident, Joyce Ramsey got the tip through a flyer in her door, "I was quite surprised. I did not expect to get the food that I got." She now comes every Monday to Martin Luther King High School for what is called "Community Lunch," and she tells her friends. Here's what she says, "you need to come around to the free lunch and they like, 'well what do you eat?' And I think when you tell people what you had they are astonished 'cause I think they think free, and they think this might be a soup kitchen."
Some of the vegetables for the meal are grown right outside on the school's farm. The students, who also work on the farm, help the chef's from local restaurants prepare the meal. This week, the volunteer chefs are from Geechee Girl Rice Café in Mount Airy. There's an Indian style vegetable curry; tomato, cucumber, yogurt raita; okra on dandelion greens; and fresh fruit for dessert.
Before digging in, diners are asked to bow their heads, "and just be thankful for all the farmers, for all the land, and for all of the processes that went into making this meal." Chris Bolden-Newsome is the Farm Coordinator here at MLK High School. He says these lunches are a way of letting neighbors know there are teenagers doing positive work. "I hope that the community learns to have faith in young people again, that's one big thing, to actually believe in their young people. The reality is in a lot of poor neighborhoods and a lot of neighborhoods of color folks are terrified of their kids."
Each week before the meal, the student farmers greet the guests and start a discussion about issues affecting the community. Issues of health, issues of food access. The neighbors get to know the students, and the young people get to know their food in a new way, which is a good thing, as Bolden-Newsome explains. "I have kids who come here and they can't recognize a carrot. They've never seen it, they didn't know what it was. Yet all of them can recognize even smallest portion of an advertisement. If I take just the tip of the hat from the Pizza Hut sign, I know this 'cause I've done it, and I show it, kids as young as 4-years-old can immediately identify it. If I show them a tomato plant even with fruit on it, they don't know what it is."
But, the teens who helped make this meal, can not only recognize a tomato, they know how to grow one. As for using them as an ingredient? Here's what one senior citizen had to say about her lunch, "It's bumping."
CHECK OUT SOME MORE PHOTOS FROM THE COMMUNITY LUNCH: