Last week, a gaggle of young students gathered at Sanchez Elementary School for “Cooking and Gardening Camp: All Plant Parts.” Hosted by the school and 18 Reasons, this four-day summer camp focused on the science and art of growing and cooking edible plants. The kids, ranging in age from 9 – 12, came from public schools all over the city – joining together to get their hands dirty both in the garden and the kitchen.
Rosie Branson Gill, program director at 18 Reasons, and Athena Barouxis, Sanchez School Garden Coordinator, led the camp activities which ranged from dissecting flowers to trying out new knife skills. The camp took place in the middle of Sanchez Elementary’s magical garden – complete with raised beds of countless edible plants, multiple compost bins and a vertical, hydroponic wall teeming with kale and chard growing over a sunken pool of Koi.
Rosie explained the importance of this camp: “All Plant Parts camp is part of an on-going relationship between 18 Reasons and The Sanchez School. Together we are teaching kids how to enjoy growing, cooking and eating fresh and delicious food. We feel that, if kids are engaged at a young age, they’re more likely to embrace good, clean food and hopefully maintain a healthier lifestyle.”
The kids seemed thrilled with the prospect. On the first day they learned about seeds and roots and “FBI” (fungus, bacteria and invertebrates) in the morning and then tried out their new “claw” and “bridge” moves with their knives as they chopped carrots and sliced radishes for their seed & root sandwiches. They even took turns shaking a glass jar full of heavy cream to make their own butter! Throughout the week they made every single thing they ate. Though a few kids appeared a bit reluctant to try some of the more exotic plants and foods, Rosie encouraged all the kids to try everything twice and taught them, “Don’t yuck my yum!”
Slow Food San Francisco has had a relationship with Sanchez school for years and has funded many components of their garden with money raised at other events like Golden Glass, Food from the Heart, etc. Recent donations have funded many aspects of the school’s garden including:
– Upgrading the original Sanchez School garden to include drip irrigation, wooden planter boxes, redwood pathway markers, benches, and the relocation of lemon trees.
– Restoring and repairing the rainy day assembly area art and murals
– Maintaining and upgrading the Native Plants and Sculpture Garden
Slow Food San Francisco was thrilled to participate in the All Plant Parts summer camp by providing scholarships for two students to attend from Sanchez school. And to see these kids gleefully playing in the garden and soaking up the cooking and planting lessons – it was well worth the investment. At one point they tried to outdo each other – describing the gardens at their own schools and trying to see who had the most fruit trees*. And then, when asked what she hoped to learn during the week, little Mady, age 8, exclaimed, “I just want to learn everything!”
* These kids are lucky enough to have gardens at their schools due in large part to the efforts of the San Francisco Green Schoolyard Alliance.