Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Food Justice, Guerrilla Gardening, and In-Service at Burlington Children's Space

This week is In-Service at BCS.  No kids, just teachers learning from each other and community members. I am lucky enough to get to cook for my colleagues three days in a row. There is nothing I love more  than feeding people, so this is like a vacation retreat for me.

I'm so proud to be a part of this working community of learners, seekers, people who are always striving to be better at what they do, and at who they are, together and individually.

I love feeding them while they do the hard work of presenting to each other, reflecting, starting new projects, and deepening understanding of our community.

On these days,  I even get to pop out of the kitchen to share some of my ideas and goals - what's going on in my heart and head at the moment. Today  I shared this TED talk by Ron Finley, a self-proclaimed guerrilla gardener in South Los Angeles, with my co-workers. If you have 10 minutes, please watch. His plan is simple, his message inspirational. But what struck me the most was the aspect of justice.  Because what's been in my head and heart lately is the idea of food justice.

Here's the video:

And here's what I wrote for my co-workers:

I'm so proud of you all and the effort you put into food here at BCS. I'm proud of the culture you have all created here - the importance you place on food and nutrition, and the work you all put in to backing up your belief in that importance.

Your work values not only nutrition, but food as a community experience. And that part, that positive community experience of food, is one of the things that can get lost for folks who are food insecure. I'm so proud that that concept is a part of the learning and care that happens here.

I've been feeling politicized lately.

And that's got me thinking about food justice.   What is it? The larger definition is, simply, people need to be directly in charge of their food. They need to understand and participate in their food systems, as well as have access to enough healthy, appropriate food. It's a Big System idea. One that won't change on a large scale without Big System cooperation.

But my definition is a little different. Smaller.  I think everyone needs access to enough healthy food to eat every day. And this access is a right, not a privilege. Everyone deserves it.


What we're doing here at BCS (with our food program, our family dinners, our garden projects, our take home bags, taste tests, family style meals and snacks, cooking with kids) is working toward food justice in our community.

Ron Finley saw that culture needed to change in his community to bring food justice to the people there. He also saw that those kinds of changes rarely happen from the top, down. The president - no matter who it is - isn't going to address food justice in the neighborhoods of South Los Angeles, or the Old North End of Burlington Vermont. This stuff happens from side to side, from neighbors helping neighbors, on the ground. On the space between the sidewalk and the street, if necessary.

He saw an opportunity to bring knowledge and power and opportunity to folks who were lacking it. All by increasing access to healthy food.

We are doing the same. We are demystifying food systems - planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, sharing. We are nourishing a different, non-stressful, autonomous relationship with food.

We are creating a culture of inclusion, respect, and feeding each other well.
That, to me, is food justice.
Thank you for working for it with me.



Vegetarian Tacos


Friday take home bag recipe! Suggestion:  roast some cauliflower florets with olive oil, salt, pepper, and cumin at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes - or until they start to caramelize on the edges - you can add it right to the tacos - delish!!!


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

People working together can change the world. But not when they're hungry.


We need your help.

As some of you may know, last winter BCS was the fortunate recipient of St. Michaels’ College Fix it With Five award - $10,000 to fund a year’s worth of our amazing Take Home Bag Project. 

Our Take Home Bag project, in case you don’t know, started 4 years ago when we packed up bags of grocery staples for families before we closed for the long break between Christmas and New Year’s Day. We know many of the families we work with are food insecure, meaning they can't always rely on adequate daily nutritous food. We wanted to provide extra food for the days kids would be away from the daily breakfast, lunch and snack served at school, and also encourage families to cook and eat together with healthy  ingredients like eggs, cheese, pasta, tortillas, butter, oatmeal, veggies, and fruit. We packed up 15 and sent them home. 
We surveyed folks who took those first bags to find out what they thought. The response was so overwhelming - the gratitude for the simple bag with recipe ideas and the openness of the answers to questions about food insecurity made us realize we were on to something. We knew we had to find a way to continue the project. 

Over the next four years we wrote fundraising letters, we formed a relay team and ran the marathon - twice - and we received support from the Children's Trust Fund. Last year, St. Mike’s students were moved by one of our core beliefs, and one the main ideas behind the bag project. Chronic hunger erodes human dignity. But sharing healthy food can restore it.   We will always be grateful for their support.
After all, as one  of our preschoolers put it, who can learn when they are hungry?
Here are some things our families have had to say through their surveys over the years:

My kids didn't like spinach until this meal!

"I'm just seeing what's in my food bag" yells one kid from the kitchen. It takes me .075 seconds to get through the door and there she is, a fist full of shredded cheese in her mouth and another headed that way. "Cheese!" she yells. "There's cheese in here!!"
The bag was helpful, my niece was visiting for the weekend so it was great to have the extra food. 

Thanks for reminding us that tacos are tasty and cheap, we never think to make them!

Grilled cheese and soup! How come you always forget how good it tastes?

Bags are always so helpful! Love that you get enough for a meal plus extras. 

We really enjoyed the curry, rice, spinach salad, and bread with butter, so much to eat!

Food is not cheap so even one meal makes a world of difference for me and my family.

We hit Friday like a brick wall- tired hungry and disorganized- so coming home with a bag of dinner invites us to slow down, work together, and feed ourselves.  Thanks! 

The games, songs and food bags from BCS have helped me and my child bond.  We have more opportunities to talk,  play,  and spend quality time together because of BCS.  

It was great.  I had never made meatless chili before.  My family ate almost all of it.  We only ended up saving one bowl for leftovers.  

Lasagna is something we don’t have normally due to the amount of different ingredients one has to purchase.  I had enough to make two dinners with leftovers.  

It was easy and came out amazing ( vegetable curry).  I was pleasantly surprised when my picky 13 year old son actually like it.  I thought he was going to take the first bite and quit.  He ate half a large bowl.  

We absolutely oved the potatoes and fresh dill.  We used the eggs to for scrambled egg breakfast.  We used the bread for PB and J sandwiches.  

 I hope to be able to contribute when I can.  But it helps the family out so much.   

I want to say thank you.          

We spent the St. Mike's money this past year, feeding folks, spreading cooking knowledge and helping families cook and eat together more. To prepare for the end of this money, we applied for another year's worth of take home bag funding from Hannaford's community giving program. We felt sure we would get it. After all, we're a local non-profit, our program addresses hunger in our community, and promotes family nutrition. Plus, we've purchased the contents of each and every bag - as well as much of our lunch and snack ingredients -  from Hannaford. 
Needless to say, we were hopelessly unprepared for our rejection. 

We are reapplying through a different Hannaford program, thanks to a suggestion in our reply letter, but unfortunately at this moment we have only two more weeks of take home bags, until we can secure another funding stream. 

We know this program is valuable. We know we can keep it going, because we've done it before when it seemed impossible - remember the marathon!
 And right now more than ever, fighting for something we know benefits our community and affirms our need to care for each other seems absolutely essential. 

While we work on our next steps, we are open to ideas, suggestions for organizations we could ask for support, and of course, donations. 

If you'd like to help, I've started this gofundme page to make donating super easy and quick. 
Click the link to donate, and help us feed our families. 

Thank you. 
We love you. 
We're in this together. 

Erinn and Sarah. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Thanksgiving Family Dinner

It's special every year, this gathering.

This November got off to a tricky start, for many of us. And the Thanksgiving holiday was, maybe, feeling like more of a hurdle to get over than a happy destination point. The kickoff to a season that suddenly felt less warm and bright.

But we dug deep and soon we were planning our annual Thanksgiving Family Feast with even more enthusiasm than usual at BCS.

We made lists. We made invitations. We shopped, we prepped.

We gathered staff and parents in to the kitchen one chilly night at closing time and baked pies, tarts, and pumpkin breads.

amazing pumpkin pies
parent bakers

 We made sure to invite everyone, including alumni and community friends.

And then, we cooked. All day long. Sarah and I prepped three turkeys and puzzled over when they should enter the ovens and how long we should roast them - like we do every year. We - along with teachers and preschoolers - peeled mountains of potatoes and cubes loaf after loaf of bread to homemade stuffing.

We laughed in the kitchen with the parents and friends who showed up to mash huge pots of potatoes, make gravy from scratch, chop carrots and celery, set tables, and oversee the turkey preparations.

We celebrated the return of last year's stellar turkey carver, a lovely BCS mom.

Then, around 5pm, the doors opened and hungry friends began to stream in. As folks filled their plates and began to fill the seats it was almost as if you could feel relief rising in the room.
Here we all were, together. Our community doing what it does so well, no matter the circumstance.

We cooked together, we shared a beautiful meal, we had conversations with friends and strangers.

We hugged. We held each other's babies, and we marveled at how tall the big kids had grown.

With our actions, we reaffirmed the values we always come back to at BCS for comfort, for direction,  for celebration.
We know that love - that unconditional positive regard - is powerful, and transformative.

We know that good food helps.

We know that a truly strong community supports everyone.

As I looked out on the busy noisy room from the kitchen I saw this all at work.
At Family Dinner, you'll probably pass the butter to the parent sitting next to you at the table who doesn't speak your language, but who's kid has a cube next to yours. You'll clean up a milk spill together and laugh about what a circus dinner with toddlers can be.

There is decency, acceptance, dignity, and love in each of these connections, these tiny interactions. In fact, they are what hold us together in difficult times.  And as I watched them unfold all around the room I felt immeasurably grateful for all the places like BCS, where these connections are happening every day.

We will be here, supporting each other with love, compassion, and good food,  at Thanksgiving time and always.

Love to you.
Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Actual Preschooler's lunch plate!

Sesame noodles, marinated chick peas, greens and red cabbage salad, and pears! 

Sesame noodles

Bio 1lb spaghetti noodles, thin works best, and whole wheat taste dlucious. Rinse with cold water after cooking and set aside. 

Sauce: 2 cloves garlic finely minced
1/2 inch piece of ginger finely minced
1/4 cup tamari
1/4 cup honey
1Tbsp tahini
1/3cup sesame oil
2tsp sriracha or chili paste
1tsp apple cider vinegar

Whisk all ingredients until smooth, toss well with cooled noodles! 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Baking together

I led a baking workshop for our teachers this morning. Our dough is rising.