The Food Connections
How food defines our lives and our community
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This spring, we sent students from Sun Valley's Community School and Hailey's Sage School out on reporters' beats around the Valley. Their assignment: discover how food, the ways we produce, consume and gather, define our lives in the Valley.
Saving School Lunch
Valley students take the lead on healthy eating
By Melissa Becker
It’s a chilly day in February, yet the smell of a BBQ is wafting through the air of the Community School Campus. Despite the below freezing temperatures and the occasional snow flurry, the line for a sustainable burger from Idaho’s bounty is about fifteen students deep. The Community School Student Senate’s weekly BBQ is part of a growing trend that is sweeping the globe and leaving behind healthy and more sustainable lunches.
In 1995, Alice Waters established the Edible School Yard, a one-acre organic garden and kitchen classroom at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Berkeley, California. Her program, which strives to teach kids about the connection between health, food, and the environment, has expanded across the country to include affiliates in North Carolina, Louisiana, and San Francisco. This international trend of the healthy school lunch jumped across the Atlantic to England in 2004 when Jamie Oliver, a prominent U.K. chef and media personality, began pushing local and national governments to ban junk food in school and provide fresh, nutritious meals.
This international trend has landed right here in the Wood River Valley, and it’s starting from the very beginning. The Montessori school in Ketchum uses food and cooking to empower their students and teach them independence. They start teaching their students about the importance of eating well as early as 18 months. The kids begin by learning small tasks like chopping up a banana with a small butter knife or measuring flour for organic muffins. The Montessori continues this education in food through every grade level. On the winter solstice, the kindergarten prepared a special meal to celebrate the longer days to come. When asked what they were doing, each kindergartener was eager to show off his knowledge and explain how he made their meal of tortillas, meat, and blueberry cobbler.
Much like the Montessori school, and across the quad from the weekly BBQ, is the Community School Community Lunch, presented each month by an elementary school class. “The kids are really proud when they have planned and cooked a meal for the entire school,” said Laura Kennedy, the Elementary School Head at the Community School. “There are a lot of other skills they learn such as in math, they figure out the profit and loss for each meal and when we go shopping, they are always estimating cost for items and figuring out proportions for how much food we need.” Like the Montessori students, a third-grader at the Community School was eager to describe a trip to grocery store where the students learned how to pick out organic produce.
Healthy and student-prepared school lunches are prevalent south of Ketchum as well. The Sage School in Hailey prepares a group meal each Friday, in which the students aim to eat locally, organically and seasonally. “Recently, we all sat down for a meal of pasta with marinara sauce, salad with vinaigrette dressing, garlic bread, and apple cider,” said Alice Bynum, a teacher at The Sage School.
With a little help from Michelle Obama and her recent initiative to eliminate childhood obesity, public schools in Blaine County are also on their way to providing a completely nutritious lunch menu. Wood River High School already offers many whole wheat and healthy options, and is striving to reach a gold standard of nutrition, which will include a wellness policy and more fruits and vegetables.
Healthy school lunches are key in teaching kids that what they put into their mouths is important. It is important to know where your food comes from and what it takes to put a delicious meal on the table.