Baltimore School District Food Survey Reveals Parents agree with the District’s initiative to provide Healthier Options for Their Kids

fruits and vegetablesAs the Baltimore City Public Schools system continues the transformation of its food service for more than 80,000 kids (see food revolution), a new survey reveals that students and parents are hungry for more. Melissa Mahoney, the districts “top chef”, nutritionist and dietitian , sent out the survey to measure opinions about the ongoing changes and what they’d like to see in the future. Some of the biggest changes include the introduction of Meatless Monday menu options, fresh local fruits, and the creation of the Great Kids Farm as an education center focused on food and agriculture.

The survey link was presented to parents and students on the March, April and May school menus that are sent home in addition to being permanently placed on the “What you need to know” section of the district website.  Parents and students were encouraged complete a web-based survey reflecting their opinions about current menu items and preferences not only for future specific menu items, but attitudes about how the district should be focusing its initiatives. Read More >

Locally grown, Locally shared: A new model for giving in Baltimore, MD

Over a hundred Baltimore residents gathered on Saturday night for the 4th edition of an innovative fundraising event called STEW. STEW is a joint project of Baltimore Development Cooperative and Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse, where attendees pay $10/person for the opportunity to share a multi-course locavore meal and listen to the financial needs of three amazing local non-profits. At the end of the meal, attendees vote on how to distribute their +$1,000 of pooled donations.

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The Velocipede Bicycle Project presenting at STEW IV

The eponymous 2640 (St Paul St) housed the event, which contained three communal tables—dressed in brown paper tablecloths, mismatched silverware, cups, and plates—spanning the length of a church hall. The meal left this blogger pleasantly surprised about the delicious variety available within a 40 mi radius of Baltimore, and in April no less! Food was donated by local farms: Calvert’s Gift Farm, Great Kids Farm, Participation Park, Real Food Farm, and Truck Patch Farms. Volunteers cooked and served the food, with a warm and professional feel.

The inspiration for STEW, as decribed on their website, was “the ’network dinners’ organized by the art-activist collective campbaltimore in 2006, Incubate Chicago’s Sunday Soup, Brooklyn’s FEAST, as well as the amazing dinner that took place at 2640 during the City From Below conference.”

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Rod and Amanda at STEW IV

The first course was a tangy and sweet salad of mustard greens, sorrel, and radish tops, which was followed by a presentation by the Velocipede Bike Project, a community bicycle cooperative in the Station North neighborhood of Baltimore. The next course was piquant and crunchy sliced radishes in sorrel butter and roasted asparagus rubbed with salt and pepper. Following these veggies, another group presented on the International Drag King Community Extravaganza to drum up support for this rotating annual event to be held in Baltimore in November 2010.

To much excitement, the main dish and the namesake of the event was a delicious rabbit and dumpling stew (or) a strikingly green, vegan spring onion soup. After slurping up the last drops of soup from my bowl, Follow Your Dreams Inc. (FYD), a youth center and recording studio in the Harwood neighborhood of Baltimore, gave a stirring request for funding along with a deeply introspective, spoken-word poetry piece by a young FYD participant. Over desserts of vegan dark chocolate brownies, buttermilk panna cotta, or almond sponge cake, the attendees voted on how the three groups would receive their pooled money.

The funding breakdown by group was as follows:

· Follow Your Dreams, Inc. ($665)

· International Drag King Community Extravaganza ($170)

· Velocipede Bike Project ($170)

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future was well represented at STEW IV by Amanda, Angela, Becca, Brent, Jillian and myself (Dave). I’m looking forward to STEW V next month, to learn about, interact with, and support other deserving Baltimore non-profits.

– Dave Love

10 in 10: Ensure Every American Child Has Access to Healthy and Affordable Food: A “Gentle” Wish For a New Decade

10in101A new decade brings new opportunities and challenges. The interaction between diet and health received significant attention during “The Aughts.” What will we do during this next decade to respond to the call for action for a healthier and more sustainable lifestyle? This is the fourth in a continuing series highlighting 10 ways you can help this year.


Knowing that the obesity epidemic in the United States has some scientists predicting that for the first time in history American children will live shorter lives than their parents, my wish for the next decade is to see First Lady Michelle Obama, President Barack Obama and his administration succeed in their mission to ensure that every American child has access to healthy and affordable food. A recent gathering of Obama Administration officials invited to discuss their efforts to improve America’s food system left me hopeful that my wish will come true.

Courtesy: White House Blog

Courtesy: White House Blog

Last month in D.C. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Dora Hughes, Counselor to the Secretary of Health, and Sam Kass, White House assistant chef and Food Initiative Coordinator for the First Lady each shared their goals for the next year during an event for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Food and Community Program. Surprisingly it wasn’t their words that left me so inspired; rather it was the words of 10-year-old David Martinez-Ruiz. Kass shared with the audience a letter that the D.C. elementary school student had presented to the First Lady following his class visit to the White House Garden.

One of the things that I want to say about being at the White House was how gentle the feeling was. It felt surprisingly natural to be there. We planted on a warm day. The sun was out and there was a little breeze. The grass was beautiful and green. The people made us feel good. I liked the way the staff person who helped me was very gentle with the worms we found. I think about the garden as being gentle: gentle with nature, gentle to your body, and gentle with each other. Read More >

The Toughest Test

Great Kids Farm Greenhouse

Great Kids Farm Greenhouse

On Tuesday, the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future honored Baltimore City Public Schools’ Great Kids Farm with an award for visionary leadership in local food procurement and food education. The school system is now able to provide local milk, fruits, and vegetables with meals it serves and is working to help its more than 200 schools and programs develop their own gardens. Throughout the month numerous articles on this trend towards local food production have been published. For example, The Baltimore Sun published an article about the first harvest of the new one-acre garden at McDonogh School in Owings Mills. This isn’t a new trend. In fact, McDonogh School began in 1873 as a school for orphan boys who grew their own foods and farming continued at the School until the early 1960s.

Coincidentally, The New York Times published an article Tuesday entitled “Schools’ Toughest Test: Cooking” about the impressive efforts that New York City’s Middle School 137 has made in redefining their lunch program. The article proves that it is possible to “entice nearly 2,000 students at the height of adolescent squirreliness to eat a good lunch,” but that it is definitely not easy: ingredients must be approved by the Department of Education, meet the food cravings of a culturally diverse student body, and then there is the need for cooking equipment—according to the article, only half of New York’s 1,385 school kitchens have enough cooking and fire-suppression equipment to actually cook. The efforts by Sharon Barlatier, the manager of the middle school cafeteria, that are described are commendable.

The article is a must read for anyway who questions the practicality of providing quality lunch programs in urban schools nationwide.