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For me, Terra Madre hit home the importance of youth engagement in the global Slow Food movement with an emphasis on all the grassroots work we are doing in our respective communities. Sunday brought a new day and a new exchange of ideas to the table as I facilitated the “How School Gardens Impact the Greater Community” workshop. Delegates presented about pioneering programs in each of their communities, which ranged in diversity:


Slow Food Charlotte (NC): Henry Owen presented on food access within “Friendship Gardens,” which supports 74 school, church, and community gardens to teach gardening and donate a portion of their harvest to “Friendship Trays,” the local meals-on-wheels program. This connection provides students with the opportunity to see how their garden produce can impact those in need, especially when the kids can participate in the meal delivery.

{{ image(3207, {“class”: “flol round”, “width”: “300”, “height”: “200”, “method”: “img”}) }}FoodCorps (OR): Emily Ritchie, former FoodCorps service member and fellow, took creative approaches to transforming school food culture through “Boat to School.” She developed this local seafood-sourcing program in Oregon for health, environmental sustainability, local economic growth, and place-based education.

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Sherwood Montessori School (CA): Chef Richie Hirschen shared his recently published cookbook for kids “Grow – Cook – Eat” as part of his garden-kitchen program in Chico, CA. Chef Richie and his students authored this cookbook to extend the learning opportunities outside the school and into homes and the larger community.

Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart (WA): Chef Ron Askew shared the successes of his school’s program, which embeds the gardens and healthy foods into all aspects of the children’s educational experience. He described his visions of creating an entirely edible campus and gave a promising example of how Ark of Taste products can be used in the classroom and in food preparation for the students.

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Slow Food St. Louis (MO): Brian DeSmet created “Truck Farm St. Louis,” a mobile demonstration garden in the back of a pickup truck that visits schools, summer camps, and public events. The Truck Farm shows people that you can literally grow food anywhere, inspiring increased participation in food choices and diminishing barriers to local food.

Grow Dat Youth Farm (LA): Jabari Brown of Slow Food New Orleans shared his work in cultivating “infarmed” kids at Grow Dat Youth Farm with a rigorous mentorship and employment program in urban agriculture. He demonstrated how honest communication, high expectations, and hands-on gardening can foster talented young leaders.

I really enjoyed partaking in these information-packed workshops and was thrilled to witness new contacts and friendships being made between school garden leaders and Slow Food chapters across our network. And with so many youth members and garden advocates present at Terra Madre, we are generating new ideas for integrating the National School Garden Program with the Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN).

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To continue to promote dialogue between Slow Food USA chapters across the country, we are soliciting ideas for how to keep the school garden conversation going and would love to hear from you! Terra Madre certainly provided a fantastic jumping off point, and we hope that moving forward, local chapters will really become a hub for school gardens in their respective communities! Please don’t hesitate to reach out to gardens@slowfoodusa.org if you have questions, comments, or ideas.


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