Community Lunch event highlights sustainable urban farming

On Monday, more than 100 people gathered at Martin Luther King Jr. High School to celebrate local food production with Seeds for Learning: Beyond the Farm, a school-based farm and entrepreneurship program.

In collaboration with Foundations, Inc., a national organization that seeks to “build the capacity of organizations and individuals to transform the world of learning for children and youth,” students hosted a “Community Lunch” for West Oak Lane residents.

Despite the fact that this event could have been the last of its kind at the school, they hoped to share the importance of sustainable farming and highlight the impact it can have in low-income communities.

Aramani Gordan-Key, an incoming senior, said that the program has “changed my entire life because now I am more aware of healthy foods and I am able to make better choices about what I eat.”

The program, which started in 2008, “teaches young people how to do sustainable farming, respect their land and learn about healthier food options and food access,” said Lisa Nutter, who serves as president of Philadelphia Academies Inc.

Jack Kitchen, president and CEO of Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corporation (OARC) and Weaver’s Way farmers also attended the lunch event. Kitchen noted that Seeds for Learning gives “urban kids exposure to farm work and healthy food access.”

The menu consisted of organic, locally grown crops from the farm at the school and those in local communities. Residents could choose from field greens with goat cheese, sausage or vegetarian gumbo and peach crisp. Seeds for Learning students prepared the food with help from chefs Linda Geren and Eileen Talanian.

In addition to cooking, students aimed to educate attendees on the importance of the local food movement with a game of “Food Sovereign Activity.”

Guests at each table were given cards with different scenarios focusing on injustices and disparities faced by those who work and live in “food deserts.” They then reported to other guests how they felt about the hypothetical situation and discussed how community members could rectify such problems in their own neighborhoods.

This event was the last of its kind this summer and maybe forever. Budget constraints left it unclear whether the Seeds for Learning program will continue at the school, a fact that worried participants.

“As I learned more about farming and healthy food as a volunteer, I was offered a job and if it can not continue, I will be sad,” said incoming senior Michael George.

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