Eleven FoodCorps Arkansas service members are serving in 19 schools in the state during the 2017-2018 school year. The group came together, along with FoodCorps Arkansas Fellow Amy Joens and NCAT staff members, for a state orientation September 18-20, 2017.
One Part Classroom, One Part Kitchen
The group spent their first day of training at Brightwater–A Center for the Study of Food. Brightwater is the home of Northwest Arkansas Community College’s Culinary program. The staff there also work with many local organizations and schools on projects such as food waste reduction and recovery, healthier recipe development, educational activities, and more. Brightwater recently opened a new facility that has impressive teaching kitchens, classroom space, gardens, and a large hydroponics greenhouse under construction. A Brightwater chef led the group through a cooking exercise to create a delicious and healthy lunch for themselves. Brightwater chefs work closely with local farms to procure product and are very interested in supporting local food producers.
During classroom sessions, NCAT Southeast Regional Director Margo Hale gave an introduction to NCAT and the ATTRA Sustainable Agriculture program and Arkansas Farm Bureau’s Andy Guffey presented on Arkansas agriculture history. NCAT Horticulture Specialist Luke Freeman gave a talk about digital tools to help with school garden planning and management. The group also learned about the farm to school landscape in Arkansas, as well as funding resources.
Mix In a School-Wide Activity
The second day of the training took the service members to Watson Primary School in Huntsville, one of the FoodCorps service sites. The day was full of hands-on learning for the members. They prepared “Tomato Cornfetti,” made with Arkansas-grown tomatoes, then promoted and conducted a taste test of the dish with the entire school. Members also observed teachers to learn about classroom management techniques. Afterwards, they manned four garden stations and did rotations of teaching and working with second grade classes.
Combine with On-Farm Collaboration
The third day started with a service project at Cobblestone Farm in Fayetteville. Cobblestone is a non-profit farm that sells half of their produce and donates half to area hunger-relief agencies. The group planted a field of lettuce, cabbage, chard, and collard greens. Then they traveled across town to the Apple Seeds Teaching Farm. Apple Seeds is a local nonprofit that also works on farm to school and school garden programming; FoodCorps Arkansas members often collaborate with Apple Seeds. The farm manager and Luke Freeman led the group on a tour of the farm. They discussed garden management techniques, crop selection, pest and weed control, tools, composting, and more.
Orientation ended with a session on food justice and equity and how that influences the members’ service. It was a great three days of training for our members. Everyone is energized for a productive and fun year of working to create healthier food environments in Arkansas schools.
To find additional resources on farm to school topics, visit the Local and Regional Food Systems section of the ATTRA website.