Holiday Food Bags

Well, after one little Facebook post about our annual holiday food bags we received an unbelievable $1100 in donations - in just under two days! Sarah was so excited she ran out and bought extra goodies for all of the bags the night before we packed them. Even better than the money, so many friends showed up to help that we had more hands than work!

Past BCS teachers Megen Perkins, now teaching at Mater Christi School in Burlington, and Kesha Ram, now a VT State Rep, came to help. Several BCS Board members, current and past parents were there, and many BCS staff took time out of their work day to help out. 

But the best surprise by far was the arrival of two alumni sisters, Chloe and Emma, with their mom Nikki. Though they both graduated and moved on from BCS years ago, their family has stayed in touch. When they read about the holiday bags, they decided to come into town and spend their afternoon helping out. When they arrived we spent some time chatting and catching up, then Nikki said the girls had something for us. Their family uses the "3 jar" allowance technique, so when the kids receive money they put aside some to spend, some to save, and some to donate to a local cause. Both girls had amassed a fair amount of funds to donate, and they decided they wanted to use them to contribute to the food bag cause.

We were speechless.

 Needless to say, I cried.

We packed 20 bags with bread, eggs, butter, carrots, potatoes, beans, tortillas, cheese, pasta, clementines and homemade pumpkin or banana cranberry bread.

The previous week we included a survey in each weekend bag like we always do, but  Sarah asked an additional multiple choice question.

I would cook more at home if I had a :
sharp knife      peeler      cutting board      pot     other (let us know)

Based on the responses,  we included a new kitchen utensil for every bag recipient. We gave away spatulas, knives, potato mashers, and cheese graters, and one pasta pot! 

They were the best holiday bags yet. I can't wait until next year!

Creating a Healthy Food Culture

BCS teacher Shastina Ann Wallace wrote this great piece about our food program and her professor published it on his blog.


These values around food can be observed in the words of the Executive Director of BCS, Sarah Adams-Kollitz, “Food is to me an embodiment of what we always want to create in a school, which is inclusion, generosity, and acceptance. And I don’t feel like there is any better tool than food to represent that and also to help make it happen.” (S. Adams-Kollitz, personal communication, November 30, 2015) From curbing obesity to ensuring food security, the many practices around food at Burlington Children’s Space have the power to make a positive difference in children’s health because “[t]he eating behaviors children develop during the preschool years continue to shape their food attitudes and eating patterns through adulthood.” (McBride & Dev, 2014)

Read the whole piece here:

Changing the Menu in Montreal

The Queen Elizabeth, site of the conference...and the view from our window!

Back in November Sarah and I spent a few days in Montreal with our friend Jed, at the Changing the Menu School Food Conference.
Jed used to be our program director, and while we were sad when he left BCS to become the Early Education Program Coordinator at Shelburne Farms, the change really spurred us to develop an innovative partnership with the farm that continues to evolve.

It began with the formation of a Professional Learning Community. Last year, folks from BCS, Shelburne Farms, and other area early ed programs got together once a month to discuss issues and ideas like farm-based education, food justice, and practicing mindfulness at work. The two hour sessions would happen in the evening after the regular work day,  and include food (of course).
Early Ed professionals attend a PLC session at the Burlington Children's Space

We got so much out of these sessions that we wanted to deepen our work with Shelburne Farms. So together we began a partnership which included preschool and toddler class visits to the farm, and farm staff coming to BCS to work and play with us.  We were discovering  our own version of "farm-based" education!
Food is central to culture and community. Our food choices affect not just the health of our bodies, but our spirits too. Food helps us form our identity as humans.   It's nourishment, and it's love! We realized that both of our organizations are deeply invested in the idea of systems that value and prioritize food.  We both want to see food skills, and the journey of our food from seed to plate, embedded in school curriculum from the early years.
At the conference we learned a simple name for this idea - teaching kids about the mechanics of food growth, harvest, preparation and preservation as well as the community and cultural importance of what we eat.

Food Literacy.

We were hugely inspired by the speakers and presentations we saw at the conference, and came back full of ideas about school gardens that employ local students and feed the school community, teacher and family harvest shares, school kitchens that double as community food resource centers, and drive-through veggie pick-ups at school!

Farm share veggies ready for pick up by families at the end of the school day

We also learned about Promising Practice Guidelines for food literacy initiatives - especially those that address hunger and food insecurity - from programs working in First Nation communities in Canada. I was proud to note that at BCS we have already put much thought into many of these when designing our projects, especially our take home food bags. Ideas like universality (meaning the program is offered to all in a non-stigmatizing way), benefitting the health of participants, affordability, cultural appropriateness,  consistency,  innovative funding, and sustainability are all topics we hold close to our hearts whenever we think about new ways to engage our community with food.

Greens for family dinner donated by a farmer/parent

So, we were inspired to apply as presenters at the 2016 National Farm to School Conference in Michigan in June! Sarah, Jed and I submitted a proposal for a joint presentation on the BCS Shelburne Farms collaboration, and I proposed a "Lightening Talk" about my Actual Preschooler's Lunch Plates series, and translating ideas about kids and healthy food into practices that promote food literacy and the voluntary consumption of vegetables by kids of all ages.

Wish us luck! I promise to keep you posted.